Panthers put up six runs in final two at bats to defeat Wildcats
TAFT-After last year’s semi final loss, the Taft varsity baseball team was hoping that a little home cooking would be the right recipe in getting revenge. Instead, the Wildcats received a bitter taste of what ifs Thursday afternoon when the No.7 seeded Washington Union Panthers erupted for six runs late in the game to shock the No.2 seeded Wildcats 9-5 in the quarterfinal round of the CIF-CS Division IV playoffs.
“The harder you work, the tougher it gets,” Taft coach Dave Robertson said of the loss. “We battled them hard.”
With the loss, Taft ends the season with an overall record of 20-6 while Washington Union advances to the semifinal round.
Taft had the first chance to break through in the last half of the first inning when Tyler Johnson and Caleb Lopez each were hit by a pitch. However, the final batter struck out to end the threat.
Washington Union capitalized on the missed opportunity in the top of the second inning thanks to John Hobbs' leadoff walk and Junior Maravilla's single. Following a strikeout and a hit batter, Michael Freitos knocked in the first run by hitting into a force play at second,. Maravilla went on to score the second run on a delayed steal of home.
The Panthers added another run to their lead in the top of the third inning after back-to-back walks kicked off the rally. Two batters later, Hobbs singled to right field to knock in the run.
In the meantime, the Wildcats were unable to get their offense going until the bottom of the fifth inning.
After a leadoff walk opened the rally, Taft caught a break when the Washington Union third baseman airmailed a throw for a two base error. The Wildcats fed off that change in momentum when Jesse Rodriguez and Blake Emberson singled in a run while Steven Gee had the highlight of the inning with a two run single.
Taft had a chance to add onto their rally with runners at first and third base with two outs but the next batter flied out.
It looked as if the Wildcats were going to get through the top of the sixth inning after two of the first three batters were retired on groundouts. However, the Panthers rallied after an infield error, a single and a dive into first base to beat a throw.
Those three at bats set the stage for Yafett Thomas' three run single to left field to give Washington Union the lead back at 7-5.
Taft attempted to erase the deficit in their half of the sixth inning on Rodriguez's one out single. The inning came to a crashing end one batter later, on a line drive to the Washington Union first baseman who tagged the bag for a double play.
Washington Union struck again in the seventh inning on two hit batters, two singles and a fielder’s choice to score two runs.
This was not only the last game of the season, but it was the last high school game for the nine seniors on the team.
“It’s going to be tough to lose that many number of players,” said Robertson. “They’ve been a great group of kids to coach.”