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Panthers go winless in tourney

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Thursday April 04, 2002

NOVATO – The St. Mary’s Panthers pulled off another huge comeback against El Cerrito on Wednesday, but this time they couldn’t hold on for the win as the Gauchos mounted a comeback of their own to win, 10-9, in extra innings at the San Marin Tournament. Jacob Lucas’s single scored Randy Minix in the bottom of the eighth inning to end the game and send the Panthers home winless in three tries in the tournament. 

Going into the fifth inning down 5-2, the Panthers scored three runs to tie the game. Although El Cerrito pushed across a run in the sixth, St. Mary’s answered right back with four more runs in the seventh to grab a 9-6 lead.  

Panther starter Joe Storno was clearly exhausted by that point, but St. Mary’s thin pitching staff left head coach Andy Shimabukuro little choice but to send him back out to the mound. He got Jamonte Cox on a strikeout to start the inning, but Lucas knocked a double to left to get things going. After a walk, passed ball and a flyball out, pinch hitter James Cannon hit a two-run single up the middle. Storno hit Josh Harvey with the next pitch, and Ryan De La Rosa hit a slow grounder to short for an infield single, with Cannon coming all the way around to score on Manny Mejia’s late throw to first to tie the game again. Storno got Greg Murray to fly out to end the inning, but the momentum was clearly back in El Cerrito’s favor. 

Tom Carman pitched the eighth for the Panthers, facing just three batters before taking the loss. Carman pitched on Monday, and was further hampered by a sore elbow after being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning on Wednesday. 

The game was sloppily-played in the early going, with each team committing five errors in the first five innings. The Gauchos took advantage early, hitting just one ball out of the infield but scoring three runs in the opening frame. Harvey got things going with a double to lead off, and De La Rosa followed with a single. St. Mary’s third baseman Chris Morocco muffed a groundball by Murray to load the bases, and Minix drove in the game’s first run with a flare that fell in front of centerfielder Chase Moore, although Moore got a force at third. Lucas then hit a grounder to second base that Marcus Johnson couldn’t handle, and Dave Greenstein walked to force in another run. 

“We have to get a better defensive effort,” Shimabukuro said. “We’re still giving away way too many outs.” 

The Gauchos were nearly as bad on defense. Just one of St. Mary’s first five runs was earned, and El Cerrito finished the game with six errors. 

The Panthers’ grueling schedule calls for their fourth game in as many days today against Redwood Christian, and Shimabukuro has few options left for pitching. He plans to call up a junior varsity pitcher for today’s game, but with a 5-9 overall record, the St. Mary’s coach knows his team must win the BSAL title to have a shot at post-season play. 

“I know we’re really thin right now, but the only thing that matters now is to get out and win our league games,” he said.