May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Irvine wins extra inning game over Woodbridge 2-1 in PCL baseball opener

Irvine starter Ryan Barlow fires a pitch in Friday’s PCL opener. (Photos Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

If Friday’s Pacific Coast League baseball opener between Woodbridge and Irvine is any indication of what lies ahead then the local fans are in for a thrilling season.   

Bubba Filia worked a bases loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Vaqueros a 2-1 win over the Warriors at Irvine High.

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

Despite having their bats quieted the Vaqueros got excellent pitching and won in exciting fashion.

Leonard Memon led off the bottom of the ninth with an infield single against Warriors reliever Conner Tallakson. He was sacrificed to second by Cameron Hicks. Jackson Lyman singled to left and Memon stopped at third base. Grant Lockwood drew a walk to load with bases with one out.

Pat Hackworth then bounced a high chopper back to the mound that Tallakson was able to field and throw to home to force Memon out for the second out of the inning. Filia, who doubled in four previous at bats, worked the count to three and two until he watched ball four sail outside, allowing Lyman to score the winning run.

“I was sitting on a fastball and I trusted my eyes and saw that it was going to be outside,” said Filia. “We kept grinding and we know every game in this league is going to be a battle.”

Both teams got excellent pitching. Ryan Barlow hurled six innings for the Vaqueros and gave up one run and five hits.

“I was nervous as the game started because I wanted to succeed,” Barlow said. “I think my changeup was the best I’ve ever thrown and I was spotting my fastball. I felt like I succeeded today.”

Yoni Bracha followed Barlow and allowed no runs and two hits in three innings of relief. He worked out of a two on with two outs jam in the ninth for Irvine.

“My job is to keep us in the game,” said Bracha, who earned the win. “Coach Cota has really created a new culture here and our team has developed a ‘no fear’ belief that we can always win.”

Woodbridge’s starting pitcher Jack Bunnell, despite feeling under the weather, struck out seven and yielded only one hit and no runs over five innings. He was relieved by Tallakson in the sixth after the Warriors (4-4) pushed across an unearned run in the fifth to take a 1-0 lead.

“I’ve been feeling a little sick but after the game started I settled down and my fastball and changeup were working,” said Bunnell, a sophomore.

Irvine tied the score 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth after Grant Lockwood walked with one out, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. He came home on a sacrifice RBI fly by Hackworth.

Woodbridge had opportunities to score earlier in the game but hit into inning ending double plays in the third, fourth and fifth innings.

“We have to be more competitive in our at bats,” said Warriors coach Ryan Brucker. “I can’t ask anymore more from our pitchers, Jack and Connor were excellent, but our offense has to execute better.”

The game was filled with outstanding defensive plays such as Lyman’s first inning diving catch in center field, Memon’s over the shoulder grab in deep left center field in the sixth, Lockwood’s pop fly catch on the run in the seventh and (catcher) Filia’s gem near the fence in foul territory behind home plate in the eighth inning. Grant Martine also displayed some leather with a critical seventh inning snag.

“The difference was the team picked each other up,” said Lockwood.

Following the game Cota expressed a bit of relief but said ‘we’re just getting started.’

“We’ve been training for big moments and the stress that comes with it since last August,” said Cota. “Ryan and Yoni have been consistent and we’ll be ready for games like this all season.”

-Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone