May 22, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Diving catch in the seventh inning helps Esperanza hold on for 7-5 victory over Foothill

C.J. Larsen scores a run for Esperanza in the fourth inning during the Aztecs’ 7-5 victory over Foothill. Teammates Kyle Kirk (11) and Ethyn Thomas (3) also celebrate. (Photos: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone))

Esperanza’s baseball team got some clutch pitching and timely hitting but Friday’s Century Conference crossover game with Foothill came down to one amazing defensive play.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo

With two outs and the bases loaded and the Aztecs holding on to a two-run lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, Foothill’s Alex Sardina hit a sinking line drive to center field.

Esperanza center fielder Coleman Allen sprinted toward the ball, lunged toward it and came up with a spectacular catch to preserve the win.

Esperanza walked away with a 7-5 victory, its second this week over Foothill. The Aztecs won 7-6 on Wednesday.

“I ran up as fast as I could and I knew it was win or lose right there,” Allen said. “Because I drop it, they’re scoring and winning. But catch it and save the game so I committed and went all out. It was a great team win.”

Esperanza coach Kyle Mulhsteff, like the Aztec players, was holding his breath on the play.

“He’s a guy who has a lot of range in the outfield, he’s been playing right field a little bit this year and has a lot of range in center,” the coach said of Allen.

“We just want our pitchers to make pitches and our guys to make plays. We talk about making routine plays during throughout the game. We also talk about making momentum-changing plays and that was obviously a momentum changing play to end the game right there with them threatening. ‘Please catch it’ was going through my mind.”

Foothill (14-7) scored a run on a wild pitch in the seventh and a walk to Kyle Ashworth loaded the bases with two outs and it appeared when the ball went off the bat of Sardina the Knights would tie it or win the game.

The game was tied 4-4 after three innings. But in the fourth inning, Esperanza scored three runs. Jason McDonnell had a sacrifice fly and Davis Hildebrandt drove in two runs with a double.

Starting pitcher Gavin Lizik was solid through five innings for Esperanza (14-8). Jacob Cespedes came on in the sixth to finish it out.

“The past two games have been a back and forth battle with those guys,” Muhlsteff said. “Gavin Lizk had a great effort. It was a gutsy effort for five innings and then to have Cespedes come in for the last two and have another gutsy effort even though they threatened, our pitchers did a great job. I know we played great defense and we had a lot of timely hitting.”

Foothill’s big inning came in the third when the Knights used an error, two hit batters and a single to score three runs to tie the game. Lucas Garcia drove in one run with a single and Connor McMahon drove in another on a ground out.

Foothill pitchers Ketch Gannon, Parker Cattani and Jake Massey combined to walk five and hit one batter.

“I was proud of the way we finished,” said Foothill Coach Vince Brown. “I felt like we’re struggling with trusting our teammates and ourselves. We had the opportunity a couple innings earlier where we led off the inning with a triple (by McMahon) and we didn’t get that run across.

“Losing wasn’t about what just happened in this inning, it’s about what happened a couple innings earlier where our nine-hole hitter leads off with a triple and we ended up with our top of the lineup, which is a very good top of the lineup, ends up not scoring the run. And we didn’t take real good team at bats at that point and because of that we paid the price and didn’t get a run. In this inning (the seventh), we made much better team at bats, they just made a great play to end the game.”

Esperanza, which had 10 hits, was led by Allen, who scored two runs and had a single; Kyle Kirk, who scored two runs, had two hits and an RBI; C.J. Larsen, who had a double and scored two runs and David Abbadessa, who had two hits, an RBI and scored a run.

Foothill, which had seven hits, was led by Ashworth, who had a triple to lead off the bottom of the first and scored on a ground out by Sardina; and Garcia, who had two hits, scored a run and had an RBI.

RELATED: Foothill trying to make another playoff push

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;