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CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION III BASEBALL PLAYOFFS
By Loren Kopff
Gahr junior Andrew Encinas had not pitched since May 8 but he got the nod against Rialto last Friday in a California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division III first round game. The long wait between starts didn’t deter the left handed ace of the Gladiator’s pitching staff as he threw his sixth complete game of the season and got some defensive help in a 4-3 win over the Knights.
Encinas allowed eight hits, struck out five and needed 99 pitches to complete the rare fast game that ended in roughly 90 minutes. Encinas gave up one run through the first six innings, then had to count on some stellar defense in the seventh to prevent the Knights from scoring more than the two runs they did.
“The reason why Andrew is pretty good is he’s pretty consistent,” said Gahr head coach Gerardo Perez. “The reason why he’s pretty consistent is he’s a great teammate and he has a great work ethic in between starts. A lot of high school kids only do the minimum in between starts. Andrew does the maximum.”
Encinas threw a first-pitch strike five times and was ahead in the count 0-2 eight other times of the 27 batters he faced. He threw 53 pitches through the first five innings and at one point, retired nine in a row following a lead-off single and subsequent double to begin the game.
“It just felt like I was able to come back and throw a lot more strikes and I had my defense behind me,” Encinas said. “My defense picked me up greatly today.”
Rialto was up 1-0 and looking for more in the fourth when Angel Mariscal singled up the middle. But two pitches later, Alec Hernandez was safe on a fielder’s choice, then was doubled up at first when Adam Stead sharply flew out to senior center fielder Alonso Casillas, who then threw to junior first baseman Daniel Gomez.
Gahr (18-10 overall) used that momentum to tie the game in its half of the frame when Gomez singled down the third base line with two outs and junior pinch runner Isaac Garcia scored on a triple from junior left fielder Adonis Morrison.
The Gladiators turned another one-out double play in the fifth, then sent nine batters to the plate in the bottom half to score three runs. With one out, senior right fielder Anthony Rodriguez was hit by a pitch and junior designated hitter Oscar Reyna was safe when his fly ball to left was dropped. Junior second baseman Edgar Morales singled to left to plate Rodriguez and after a walk to sophomore shortstop Jaime Estrada loaded the bases, Gomez produced a two-out, two-run base hit to left field.
“[Junior third baseman Kevin] Franklin has produced some offensive numbers here and I thought Daniel Gomez, from an offensive standpoint, picked [Encinas] up and came through in the clutch,” Perez said. “He’s a wonderful kid.”
But the Knights made things interesting in the seventh when Hernandez doubled and scored on a rare fielder’s choice hit to right field. Jose Ortiz sent a 0-1 pitch to right, deep enough to score Hernandez. But on the play, Rodriguez threw Ortiz out at first for the second out.
Ubaldo Padilla was then safe on an infield knock and scored on a triple from Charles Escobar that went over Rodriguez’ head. However, Escobar was denied a chance to tie the game because Morrison saved the throw from going out of play near the dugout, which would have allowed Escobar to come home.
“Alonso Casillas played really well in center field and Edgar Morales, our second baseman, played really well,” Encinas said. “Jaime Estrada had a lot of range today and Adonis Morrison ended up saving me in the seventh because if he doesn’t back up [near the dugout], that ball bounces and goes over the fence and [Escobar] scores to tie it up.”
“First, they’re aggressive and real gritty,” Perez said of Rialto. “I want to give their coach credit. Their pitcher is pretty good and everybody is going to be good at this time of the year. I loved [Andrew] for settling down and keeping a second and third situation with one out, and then striking out the guy in the first inning; keeping them to one run. I thought that was an important early break.”
Gomez went two for three while four other players all had a hit apiece. Encinas would start the second round game at fourth ranked Elsinore this past Tuesday and yielded one run as the Gladiators posted a 6-2 upset. Gahr will travel to Quartz Hill today in a quarterfinal game.
“I also liked how we matured a little bit today,” Perez said. “We missed a squeeze early and usually we’re automatic with those skills. Edgar had a great game and made a couple of great plays up the middle. All in all, I thought it was a great team effort. You want to be playing your best baseball at the end of the year. I think we’re playing our best team baseball right now.”
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