Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
Madera South baseball players celebrate with Juan Carlos Gonzales (no hat) after he drove in Oscar Reyes (20) with the game-winning run in Tuesday’s playoff win over Ridgeview.
The Madera South Stallions baseball team took a little longer than expected to pull out a victory, but it was enough to advance in the Div. III playoffs.
The sixth-seeded Stallions scored a run in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 7-6 victory Tuesday over No. 11 Ridgeview-Bakersfield at Eddie Chapa Field. The Stallions played in Bakersfield at No. 3 Highland in the quarterfinals on Friday.
“The things we’ve been through this year, the difficult heartbreaking losses, they’ve allowed us to keep our composure after giving up three runs in the seventh inning,” head coach Bobby Waits said. “ It allowed us not to unravel. We’ve been through this. We regrouped and kept playing the game. Fortunately, we were able to get a walk-off.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning, Juan Carlos Gonzales waited for the Ridgeview pitcher to finish his warm-up tosses.
“I just wanted to get a base hit,” Gonzales said. “That was it. I wanted to win the game somehow.”
Gonzales hit a three hopper to the second baseman on the second pitch. Instead of trying to throw Gonzales out at first, the Ridgeview second baseman tried to tag out Caleb Bertoncini heading to second. The second baseman dropped the ball on the tag and all the runners were safe, including Oscar Reyes with the game-winning run.
“It was messing with my head a little,” Gonzales said about the pitching change. “I was anxious. The second baseman helped us more than I did. That was game-changing.”
Stallions ace Jiovanni Saavedra cruised through the first six innings, but allowed three runs in the top of the seventh inning.
“He’s our ace,” Waits said. “Brandon Goethe was ready, but it’s hard to pull your guy. He was at 90 pitches so he was up there, but he’s such a competitor. I wanted to see him get those three outs and get that complete game.”
Goethe pitched out of a jam in the eighth to pick up the win.
The Stallions got off to a quick start with three runs in the first inning. Josh Conigliaro started the rally with a single up the middle and stole second. Bertoncini reached on an infield single.
Gonzales hit a high chopper up the middle for a single. A wild throw to try to get Bertoncini at second went into the outfield and Conigliaro came in to score. A wild pitch scored Bertoncini. Nunez walked and Tovar was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Angelo Feliu reached on an infield single to drive in pinch-runner Ricky Reyes for a 3-0 lead.
Ridgeview answered with two runs on three hits in the third to cut the lead to one.
With two outs in the third, Jeremy Flores hit a fly ball to center that was dropped for an error. Feliu followed with a triple to right-center to drive in Flores for a 4-2 lead.
The Stallions added another unearned run in the fourth, again with two outs. Bertoncini reached on an error, went to third on Gonzales’ single to right and scored on a Nunez single to right.
Flores reached on an error to open the fifth, stole third and scored when the Ridgeview pitcher threw Feliu’s sacrifice bunt in tthe dirt to the second baseman for an error and another unearned run.
Despite trailing 6-2, Ridgeview battled back with a two-out rally in the sixth after a walk and a double. The Wolfpack took advantage of two Madera South errors to take an extra base and score three runs in the seventh despite Saavedra striking out the side.
Goethe got out of a first-and-third jam in the eighth with a groundout to second.
Reyes started the two out rally in the fifth despite missing the middle innings because of food poisoning. He doubled to right-centerfield to get the winning rally started.
“I had my guys out there that I wanted,” Waits said. “Oscar came back after being sick for most of the game. He managed to find enough energy to tell me he wanted to hit again. Needless to say, he hits a rocket to the gap to start us and scores the winning run. I don’t know what type of energy he had. He looked pale. That shows what a competitor he is. Especially sitting there for five innings and still have enough to drive enough and run the bases.”
Conigliaro and Bertoncini were intentionally walked setting the stage for Gonzales’ heroics.