Defensive lapses hurt St. Mary’s against Moreau
Despite a rousing fifth-inning rally and some clutch plays, the St. Mary’s Panthers season ended on a sour note Friday night, as they lost to Moreau Catholic, 8-6, in the second round of the North Coast Section 2A East Bay playoffs at San Leandro Ballpark.
The top-seeded Mariners scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to go ahead, after scoring five runs in an ugly fielding exhibition by the Panthers in the third. And although St. Mary’s knocked two Moreau pitchers out of the box, they came up just short in the end.
“We hung in there well, but we just couldn’t get the job done in the late innings,” St. Mary’s head coach Andy Shimabukuro said. “Even when we took the lead, we knew there was a lot of game left.”
The Panthers took their final lead in the fifth. Down 5-3, Jeff Marshall smacked the first pitch from Moreau starter Kevin Milleman into center for a single. Milleman walked the next batter and went to a 2-0 count on Omar Young, and the Moreau coaches called to centerfielder Aaron DeGuzman to take the mound.
DeGuzman promptly finished the walk to Young to load the bases, and St. Mary’s pitcher Jeremiah Fielder hit a dying quail just inside the left-field line. Marshall scored, but pinch-runner Mike Glasshoff was thrown out at third base after he had to hold to see if the ball would be caught. First baseman Joe Starkey hit into a fielder’s choice, bringing up cleanup hitter Chris Alfert with two outs and two on. Alfert came through with a shot into the left-center gap, driving in both runs and ending up on third base for a 6-5 Panther lead.
St. Mary’s dodged a bullet in the bottom of the inning, as right fielder Chase Moore lost a flyball in the lights to put the leadoff man on first. Nick Spoden followed with a line shot up the middle, but Fielder got his glove up just fast enough to deflect the ball right to shortstop Tom Wright. Wright flipped the ball to Alfert at second, and Alfert turned the double play. James Bland followed with a single, but St. Mary’s catcher Ryan Badaho-Singh gunned him down trying to steal second.
The Panthers looked like they would break the game open in the sixth, as Moore reached first on a Moreau error with one out. Marshall followed with a double to the fence in center to push Moore to third. But Badaho-Singh hit a hard grounder to short, and Moore was cut down at the plate for the second out. After a scary moment when Omar Young was beaned by a curve from reliever Mason Reilly, Fielder hit a check-swing grounder to first to end the threat.
But the bottom of the sixth proved deadly for the Panthers, as the Mariners loaded the bases without hitting a ball out of the infield. After getting Mason to ground out to shortstop, Fielder walked Matt Wilhite. Eric Van Slyke followed with a grounder into the hole that Wright got to but had not play, and Milleman dropped a perfect bunt down the third-base line to load the bases.
The momentum momentarily swung back to the Panthers when Deperio tried a squeeze bunt to score the tying run. Fielder made a great play to snag the ball and flip it to Bahado-Singh to force Wilhite and preserve the lead. But Fielder proceeded to walk DeGuzman on four straight pitches, including two that were very close to being strikes, bringing home the tying run. Fielder was very animated on the mound, screaming in celebration after the failed squeeze play, then pounding the turf when the close pitches didn’t go his way.
“(The umpire) called a good game until then, but he missed those pitches,” a distraught Fielder said after the game. “They were right down the middle. I don’t know what else I could have thrown up there.”
That brought up Moreau catcher David Thomas with the bases loaded and two outs. Thomas worked the count full, then lined a single to right, scoring the two go-ahead runs for his third and fourth RBIs of the game.
“We had nowhere to put him, and he got a big hit,” Shimabukuro said. “He had a real good game.”
The emotional roller-coaster seemed to suck the life out of the Panthers, and the heart of the lineup went down quietly to end the game with two popups to first base and a flyball to left.
As tough as the sixth inning was, the Mariners wouldn’t have been close enough to get back if not for the horrible third inning the Panthers put together. After scoring a scratch run in the top of the inning, they had a 3-0 lead, but two key defensive lapses opened the floodgates for Moreau. Wright booted a grounder to open the inning, and Fielder walked the next batter. DeGuzman laid down a bunt that Fielder pounced on and gunned to third in plenty of time to get the lead runner. But third baseman Anthony Miyawaki, who pitched a complete-game victory in the NCS opener on Wednesday, let the ball slip under his glove and the runner raced home for the Mariners’ first run of the game.
Fielder lost his focus after the errors, and gave up a double to Thomas that scored two more runs to tie the game. Fielder settled down after that, getting the next two batters to pop out to second, but Reilly blooped a single over first base to bring home Thomas, and Wilhite blasted a triple to score Reilly, scoring the fifth unearned run of the inning.
Although Fielder looked upset with his fielders’ miscues, he refused to blame them.
“You know errors are going to happen out there,” he said. “I could have gotten out of it, but I didn’t make the right pitches.”