Baseball: Team loses to rival Cupertino HS in eight inning pitching showcase

Senior+Sheldon+McClellands+pitching+helped+keep+the+Matadors+in+the+game.+He+allowed+just+three+hits+in+eight+innings+pitched.+Photo+by+Pranav+Iyer.+

Senior Sheldon McClelland’s pitching helped keep the Matadors in the game. He allowed just three hits in eight innings pitched. Photo by Pranav Iyer.

Pranav Iyer

The Matadors hopes were riding high, riding on a four-game win streak and having won eleven of their past thirteen. However, after a down-to-the-wire 2-1 eight inning loss to their arch rival Cupertino HS, the Matadors have work to do to make CCS.

Heading into the top of the eighth inning, they were down by one in what was essentially a must-win in order to keep their league championship hopes alive. Leading off the inning was the Pioneers’ junior Ben Champion, who was also pitching a three-hit gem. He made it onto base after being walked by senior Sheldon McClelland. After a fielder’s choice groundout and a wild pitch, Champion was at third with just one out. On the ensuing at-bat, Champion hustled his way home with the help of a sacrifice bunt, to give the Pioneers a 2-1 lead.

The Matadors last opportunity to win the game, or least keep the game going, started off on the right note, as senior Timothy Iwamoto made it on base by way of a walk. But walks seemed to be the only way the Matadors could get base runners due to Champion’s clinic on the mound.

Junior Matt Burke came in to pinch hit, his first appearance of the game on either side of the plate. After pulling back on the first two pitches, he quickly fell into an 0-2 hole. The next pitch he started off in a normal batting stance. But right as the pitcher released the ball, he assumed his bunting stance. The pitch was high and away but instead of pulling back, he tried reaching out for the ball and was struck out. Burke angrily slammed his bat to the ground as he headed back to the dugout and it was obvious that Matadors lost their fire they had before.

After securing the win, two Pioneer teammates celebrate with each other. It was a big win for them in terms of the rivalry and CCS and league implications. Photo by Pranav Iyer.
After securing the win, two Pioneer teammates celebrate with each other. It was a big win for them in terms of the rivalry and CCS and league implications. Photo by Pranav Iyer.

The next batter, junior Ryan Granzella, swung at the first pitch he saw and it was fielded perfectly by the shortstop who flipped it the second baseman who threw it to first for the double play to end the game. The Pioneer bench stormed the field and it was all high fives and hugs for them. The Matadors on the other hand, had their heads down. hey knew how important this game was for them, not just for the rivalry, but for CCS implications as well.

“We didn’t do a good job of playing small ball today,” head coach Nick Bonacorsi said. “We failed twice to bunt guys over. We failed once to hit and run a guy over. So that was the difference in the game. They executed in those situations and we did not.”

Although the Matadors ended up with a L in the scorebook, it wasn’t their defense that let them down. McClelland went nearly inning for inning with Champion, with both of them pitching more than complete games. He allowed just two hits while striking out four to keep his team in the game despite their horrific offense.

“I just knew that I had to throw strikes,” McClelland said. “I saw they they weren’t trying to swing early in the count so I just waited until I got them behind in the count and I tried to do what I do best from there. “

Senior Sheldon McClelland's pitching helped keep the Matadors in the game. He allowed just three hits in eight innings pitched. Photo by Pranav Iyer.
Senior Sheldon McClelland’s pitching helped keep the Matadors in the game. He allowed just three hits in eight innings pitched. Photo by Pranav Iyer. Senior Sheldon McClelland’s pitching helped keep the Matadors in the game. He allowed just three hits in eight innings pitched. Photo by Pranav Iyer.

However, both pitchers did start losing their dominance as they progressed into the later innings, which is how both teams were able to get base runners. It became a game of who could make it across the plate without getting a hit. And unfortunately for the Matadors, Champion and the Pioneers were able to do that better.

Due to the loss, the Matadors dropped to third place in the standings while the Pioneers maintained their spot at the top of the league. But the Matadors are still hopeful of their chances of making league.

“Turn our heads,” McClelland said. “Focus on Gunn and try to get second place and go to CCS from there.”

After the Matadors loss to Gunn on Friday, May 5, they no longer are in contention for winning an automatic bid into the playoffs. They will have to be selected by the CCS committee by receiving an at-large bid. The Pioneers have clinched an automatic bid and are still looking to win the league championship.