In high school ballparks last week, it was like late August in the major leagues — warm weather and heated competition. Here’s how it went down in three crosstown games:
Monday — San Marcos 1, Santa Barbara 0: “Two years ago, we had five wins [total] and no league wins,” said Jacob Pepper, in his third season as San Marcos coach. “Last year, we had six wins and one league win.” This victory was the Royals’ second Channel League win and improved their overall record to 10-4.
After starting a bunch of sophomores last year, San Marcos’s roster consists entirely of juniors and seniors. “The kids are committed,” Pepper said. They had to wait three days to face the Dons after a rainout. “We were able to come out with the same energy, keep our focus, and not make the game too big,” Pepper said.
The only run was scored on a daring bit of base-running by junior Ryan Guardino in the bottom of the sixth inning. He raced home from second base on a grounder that Santa Barbara shortstop Tommy Holguin knocked down at the edge of the infield. If Guardino had an extra coat of paint on his helmet, he might have been out — that’s how close the tag of catcher Samsun Keithley missed him after Holguin’s throw home.
The Royals conducted a players’ meeting at the mound when pitcher Mason Metcalfe was about to face Dons slugger John Jensen with two on and one out in the fifth inning. “It was their decision to walk Jensen and load the bases,” Pepper said. The next batter hit into a double play.
Wednesday — Santa Barbara 3, Dos Pueblos 0: This was the first meeting between rookie head coaches. Santa Barbara’s Donny Warrecker succeeded his father, Fred, who had coached the Dons for a remarkable 42 years and won 12 league titles. George Hedricks took over at Dos Pueblos from Nick Katzenstein, who resigned to take care of his young family after leading the Chargers to the last three league championships.
The Dons bounced back from the San Marcos game behind the strong arm and bat of senior Kevin Gowdy, a UCLA recruit who has pro scouts attending every game he pitches. In his previous outing, Gowdy hurled a no-hitter against Buena for seven innings. (Relief pitcher Bijan Palme got credit for the win because the Dons needed an extra inning to pull it out, 1-0.)
The Chargers came out aggressively against Gowdy, starting with leadoff hitter Gio Macias’s drive over centerfielder Joe Firestone’s head. Trying to stretch a double into a triple, Macias was cut down at third base on a perfect relay from Firestone to Holguin to Jensen.
Dos Pueblos punched out seven hits against Gowdy, but the right-hander bore down when he needed to and did not walk a batter. Carter Soto made two big stops of hard grounders at first base, taking one on his chin.
“Gowdy is a great pitcher, but we hit the ball,” said Dustin Demeter, a senior who is going to Hawai‘i on a scholarship. He and his younger brother, Davy, are distant cousins of former major leaguer Don Demeter.
Santa Barbara scored a pair of runs in the second inning on a double by Gowdy and a sacrifice fly by Holguin. Leading off the sixth, Gowdy hit a towering home run over the left-field fence bordering Cathedral Oaks Road.
The loss, the Chargers’ first in league play, set up a rematch two days later.
Friday — Dos Pueblos 9, Santa Barbara 5: It was 90 feet and a cloud of dust at sun-baked Eddie Mathews Field as the Chargers parlayed four walks and four hits into a six-run third inning that broke a 2-2 tie. Davy Demeter drove in the final two on a high hopper over third base.
“We preach that if they put the ball in play, good things happen,” said Hedricks, the DP coach.
The Dons got a run back in the bottom of the third, and Jensen hammered a two-run homer in the fourth to make it 8-5. Senior closer Austin Bull took the mound for the Chargers and kept the Dons off balance with pitches that stood the catcher up and then caught them looking at strikes.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Dons worked Austin for a pair of walks. First baseman Peter Appel took over in relief. He nicked Gowdy with a pitch to load the bases. The Dons then brought the tying run to the plate three times, and the side-arming Appel struck out all three to preserve the victory.
“They out-gritted us,” Warrecker said. “You can’t give up walks to a good-hitting team like Dos Pueblos. All three games this week were emotionally draining.”
San Marcos lost a pair of league games to Buena after Monday’s victory, and here’s how the Channel League standings looked at the end of the week: Dos Pueblos 3-1 (13-5 overall), Buena 4-2 (10-8), Santa Barbara 3-3 (7-6), San Marcos 2-3 (10-7), and Ventura 0-3 (8-8).
“We’re not out of it,” said Warrecker, whose Dons play their next four league games against Ventura and Buena. Pepper can say the same. San Marcos will play three against Dos Pueblos on April 26 and 29, and May 2. The Royals and Dons will play twice more on May 10 and 12.
HIGH FLYING: It was a weekend of sweeps for the highly ranked UCSB and Westmont College baseball teams. The Gauchos (25-7-1), ranked as high as No. 9 in NCAA Division 1 after a 5-1 start in the Big West Conference, will play three at Cal Poly this weekend. Westmont (35-7, 20-4 in the Golden State Athletic Conference) is No. 7 in the NAIA. The Warriors will host Biola in a Friday-afternoon game and a Saturday double-header.
S.B. ATHLETIC ROUND TABLE ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Paige Hauschild, San Marcos swimming
In the Meet of Champions at Mt. San Antonio College, the junior freestyler won the 50 in 23.70 seconds and took second in the 100 in 51.00, setting school records in both.
Eli Wopat, Dos Pueblos volleyball
The Stanford-bound senior led the Chargers to a sweep of Santa Barbara with 19 kills at the Dons’ gym, and 23 kills in a victory over Ventura.