The Santa Barbara High baseball team found that timely hitting was the best method to deal with a cold, windy afternoon at the San Marcos baseball diamond on Friday.
The Dons collected key hits to cash in against a rocky outing by the San Marcos pitching staff and took an 8-2 victory in a Channel League game.
Jordan Harris and Kai Uchio each banged out two-run doubles and Frankie Gamberdella drove in a pair of runs to lead a Santa Barbara offense that capitalized on eight walks, a hit batter and five stolen bases.
It was a 3-2 game after the first inning before the Dons tallied two runs in the third and three in the sixth.
Santa Barbara second baseman Kai Uchio made two stellar defensive plays to thwart San Marcos scoring opportunities and shortstop Nick Oakley took a relay throw from left fielder Owen Keithley and gunned down a Royals’ baserunner at the plate in the third inning.
The hitting and defense were appreciated by starter Derek True, who struggled with his control during his four innings of work but left the game with a 5-2 lead. Carter Park finished out the game for the Dons with three solid innings of relief.
“Derek had a rough day,” coach Steve Schuck said. “Like I told him: ‘You’re not going to be 100 percent all of the time and it’s what you do when you’re not feeling good and how you get through it.’ He battled out there and Carter came in and pitched a gem of three innings.”
Santa Barbara (4-3, 3-1 in Channel League) jumped on San Marcos starter Jack Winterbauer for three runs in the first inning. Gamberdella had a RBI single and Jordan Harris drove in two runs with a double to right.
San Marcos (5-5, 2-3) got two runs back in the bottom of the first against True. Isaac Villarreal doubled, Henry Manfredonia walked and the runners moved over on a sacrifice bunt by Logan Ring. Winterbauer followed with a double for two RBI.
Uchio prevented the Royals from scoring the tying run by making a diving catch of Erik Logan’s pop fly into short right field.
“He’s a grinder,” Schuck raved about his second baseman. “He grinds on at-bats, grinds on the field, grinds on the base paths. He’s a ballplayer. I love it.”
Winterbauer retired the Dons in order in the second before control problems did him in in the third. He was relieved by Brent Hyman after a hit batter and two walks loaded the bases run. A bases-loaded walk to Gamberdella forced in Anthony Firestone for a 4-2 lead. With one out, Bryce Warrecker hit a groundout to first base, allowing True to score to make it 5-2.
“We had more self-inflicted wounds as far as the walks go,” San Marcos coach Jacob Pepper said. “With a team like (Santa Barbara) that has a little firepower, you give them a little room, a little crack in the door, and they’re going to take advantage of that. They’re pretty good on the bases. They put the ball in play, had a couple of timely hits there under the walks we had.”
The Royals threatened in the bottom of the third after a walk to Winterbauer and a double to deep left field by Logan. Dons left fielder Keithley fired a relay throw to Oakley and the shortstop threw to catcher Firestone who tagged out Winterbauer.
“That was a phenomenal play,” Schuck said. “That loosened them up. Once they settled down and played Dons baseball the way they’re supposed to, they were great, they were awesome.”
Jacob Galindo and Joaquin Sandoval hit back-to-back singles off True in the fourth inning, but the Cal Poly signee struck out the next batter and got the third out when Uchio fielded a slow roller off the bat of Villarreal and threw to True who hustled to cover first base.
“We just needed a little more timely hitting and pitching in the zone,” said Pepper.
Park retired the Royals in order in the fifth. He finished the game, allowing a walk and a hit while striking out three.
Dallow and Gamberdella singled off Hyman to start the top of the fifth for Santa Barbara and Harris drew a walk to load the bases. Warrecker grounded out to second to score Dallow before San Marcos brought in Josh Swensen to pitch.
Swensen got a strikeout before Uchio ripped a two-run double for an 8-2 lead.
It was the first crosstown rivalry win for Schuck, who noted that he learned a valuable lesson after the Dons lost their crosstown game against Dos Pueblos a couple of weeks ago.
“Against DP, I don’t think I took it as serious as the kids took it, and I don’t think I really understood the rivalry, so I kind of played it down,” said the first-year coach. “I should have known against DP that they had emotions and I neglected that.
“Today, I had them prepared and I knew they were going to be emotional and we just dealt with it. They were loose, they were free and they just swung it today. It was awesome.”