Baseball: Matadors lose to Santa Clara HS in ten-inning thriller

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Baseball: Matadors lose to Santa Clara HS in ten-inning thriller

Pranav Iyer

Thursday, Mar. 26’s league matchup between the Matadors and the Santa Clara Bruins was anything but a conventional baseball game, coming after a nine inning game between the two on Tuesday. This time it went ten innings and consisted of 15 walks, 11 stolen bases and two ejections. Although the Bruins came out on top in the end 3-2, it could have easily gone either way with several questionable calls by the umpires throughout the game.

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Senior Sheldon McClelland allowed just two runs and struck out seven in his seven innings pitch. His pitching helped stymie the Bruin offense early on. Photo by Pranav Iyer.

“It was the craziest game I’ve ever been a part of,” Bruins head coach Chad Purcell said. “It was just insane with all the stuff that was going on.”

In the first three innings junior Jaren Washington of the Bruins was the only runner to get on base by way of a hit, an infield single. Both starting pitchers, seniors Sheldon McClelland and Andrew Reyes, were matching each other inning for inning by forcing groundouts and flyouts.

But in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Matadors were finally able to get their first hit from senior Kevin Nordby. Nordby then went on to steal second base, something that became a trend for both teams. The next at bat, junior Surya Kumaraguru popped the ball up just past the infield. The second baseman was unable to catch the ball and it rolled deeper into the outfield. Nordby was then able to come all the way from second to score, giving the Matadors a 1-0 lead.

After two more scoreless innings pitched by McClelland, the Bruins were in desperate need of a spark in the top of the sixth inning. To start things off, Reyes was able to get on base after getting walked. Then junior Timothy Reyes came to pitch run, which turned out to be a perfect coaching decision, as he was able to steal both second and third base. He came home on an RBI single by Manny Espinoza to tie the game up at one.

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Senior Sam Natsari only went 1-4 at the plate. However, his one hit, a triple, brought in a run to give the Matadors a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning. Photo by Pranav Iyer.

The Matadors had an immediate answer as their one-two punch, McClelland and senior Sam Nastari came up big. McClelland got on base by forcing a tough play between the first baseman and the right fielder. Neither was able to make the play and McClelland put in the extra effort to slide into second safely. His partner in crime, Natsari, then sent him home with a huge triple that went deep into the outfield.

With the Bruins in a need of a run in the final inning, Pako Vehikite got on base with a single and then stole second to get into scoring position. With two outs, Vehikite tried to come home after a single as senior Kevin Nordby rifled in a throw from the outfield to catcher junior Ryan Granzella. Vehikite ran right through Granzella without sliding and dislodged the ball from his glove. He dove past the plate but was able to tag the base on his second attempt.

In high school baseball, it is illegal to run over the catcher when you have an opportunity to slide instead. Both teams had very different opinions about this controversial play.

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The Bruins sophomore Pako Vehikite ran through catcher junior Ryan Granzella and scored to send the game into extra innings. This play at the play enraged the Matador dugout and crowd, who thought it should have been an out.

“I couldn’t see what happened because I was in the play, but I stepped up to the get the throw and he went after me,” Granzella said. “There’s no way in a normal slide that he’d hit me in the face and knock my helmet off.”

On the other hand, Purcell saw it play out very differently as he watched from the third base coaching box.

“The way I saw it was the throw was kind of up the line and it took their catcher up the line with him a little bit,” Purcell said.
“So he was blocking the plate and there just happened to be a collision. I don’t think our guy did it on purpose. I think the catcher just took it up into him and he didn’t have time to slide because he came up the line and he hadn’t gotten into his slide yet.”

Whatever actually happened, Vehikite was called safe by the home plate umpire, which enraged the Matador team and their fans. From there on, the Matadors played with a chip on their shoulder because in their minds, they had already won the game.

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Head coach Nick Bonacorsi looks for an explanation after getting ejected from the game in the ninth inning. He and the umpires had many disagreements throughout the game.

However, after a pitching change for the Bruins to Washington in the seventh, the Matadors couldn’t get anything going until the eighth. In a tie game with one out, senior Tim Iwamoto was hit by the pitch. In an effort to make up for his 0-3 batting performance, he proceeded to steal both second and third safely and with two outs and with the winning run on third, Purcell decided to intentionally walk both McClelland and Nastari to better their chances at a double play to end the inning. The intentional walks ended up being unnecessary because Washington got both Nordby and Kumaraguru to pop up. Again, the Bruins managed to keep the game going, further frustrating the Matadors.
The Matadors had another winning run in scoring position, this time in the bottom of the ninth. However, after a questionable strike call, junior Matt Li was struck out. The Matador bench erupted again, this time causing the umpires to throw out both head coach Nick Bonaccorsi and Nordby after already have given the entire team a warning. As Bonacorsi and Nordby were leaving the field they were given a big round of applause by the Matador fans who at the same time were heavily criticizing the refs.

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After the Bruins score the game winning run in the tenth inning, Matt Hui walks away from home plate. It was a game in which the Matadors had several chances to win but were unable to capitalize

The game finally came to an end in the tenth inning where Reyes was able to score after a pitch got behind Granzella at the plate and the the Bruins defense prevented the Matadors from responding the bottom half of the inning.

Although it was the Bruins that were playing from behind for most of the game, the Matadors had virtually zero offense. They had just two hits with almost all of their offense coming from walks and stolen bases. The Bruins offense wasn’t much better though, only mustering up five hits. However, it was big win for them according to Purcell.

“We were 0-3 in league going into that,” Purcell said. “We needed a league win and we got that.”

Not only was it a big game for his team, it was a special win for Purcell himself, defeating his alma mater in such dramatic fashion.

“I’ve been coaching for 12 years so I play them all the time, but its always feels good to beat my alma mater and it always feels good to be back over here,” Purcell said.

Many of Matadors were in deep frustration after the game because they thought that they deserved the win, but were robbed of one by the umpires. It was a long week for both teams, with the Matadors playing in two extra inning games and the Bruins in three.

The Matadors next home game will be against Monterey HS on Apr. 4 at 3:00 pm.