For the second Sunday in a row, Walker Toma took a slim lead into the top of the seventh inning. And for the second Sunday in a row, Toma’s Berkeley Legion team ended up losing in extra innings, a 6-5, eight-inning heartbreaker to De La Salle at San Pablo Park.
Toma was overpowering for most of the game, but his defense let him down. Every run the visiting Deacons scored was unearned, thanks to errors and passed balls. Toma struck out 13 hitters in his seven innings of work, including a rare four-strikeout inning in the fourth, and gave up just three hard-hit balls. But his fielders made five errors behind him, with two contributing to De La Salle’s three-run fifth inning.
With Berkeley holding a 4-1 lead, Toma took care of the first two batters easily on soft grounders. But a pop-up ticked off of second baseman Chris Wilson’s glove, and shortstop Jason Moore muffed a groundball. Given new life and handed the start of a rally, the Deacons took advantage. Nick Moresi hit a single to load the bases, and Toma brought home one run with a wild pitch. Cleanup hitter Chris Hom followed with a two-run single, but was cut down trying to take second on the throw home to end the inning.
Berkeley answered right back in the bottom half of the inning with a run, but it could have been more. Foster Goree, Jr., led off with a double into the left-center gap, and Moore hit a line shot that found the glove of De La Salle’s second baseman, who caught Goree too far off of second for the double play. Center fielder Bennie Goldenberg then hit a single and stole second, and Toma helped his own cause by scoring Goldenberg with a single to left to scratch out a 5-4 lead. Toma hit drove De La Salle starter Tim Schlatter from the game.
Toma struck out the side in the sixth, but the Deacons’ reliever did the same to Berkeley, and Toma had the slimmest of margins to work with heading into the seventh. The first De La Salle batter hit a chopper up the middle that turned into an infield single. Matt Carter laid down a sacrifice bunt, but was called safe at first to the loud protests of the Berkeley coaches. A passed ball by Berkeley catcher Jason Haller sent the runners to second and third, and Eric Basilo tied the game with a single, although Carter was gunned down at the plate by Goree with Basilo taking second on the throw. The Berkeley coaches chose to intentionally walk Moresi to set up a force play, but that backfired when Haller let another pitch slip by him, again moving the runners up a base. Hom was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Toma dug deep on the next two batters. He fanned designated hitter Justin Bunkis for the fourth time, then got another strikeout to end the inning.
Despite losing the lead late in the game, Berkeley still had some life left in them. Wilson led off with a single, and Goree beat out a sacrifice bunt. Moore bunted the runners over, and Goldenberg took an intentional pass to load the bases with one out. But Toma grounded to short, forcing Wilson at the plate, and Erik Johnson flew out to left to end the threat.
Brian Kenny doubled to start the eighth off of Moore, who came in to relieve Toma. The next two batters grounded out, and it looked as if Moore would work his way out of the jam. But he walked Carter, then hit the next two batters on consecutive pitches, forcing in the go-ahead run. Although Berkeley got the leadoff batter on in the bottom of the inning, they couldn’t get him home, and the game ended 6-5 in favor of the visitors.