Patterson’s on-again, off-again offense struggled against the Yellowjackets’ pitching, stranding a total of 11 runners on the base paths.
The Tigers left the bases loaded in both the fifth and sixth innings.
“We need our guys to come through in the clutch,” Patterson coach Benji Lozano said. “We’re still looking for someone to step up and be that player for us.”
Hilmar took advantage of a busted Tigers’ double-play attempt, scoring its first run in the top of the second inning.
With Yellowjackets on first and second, Patterson saw a potential inning-ending double-play grounder go by the wayside when — after forcing a Hilmar runner out at second base — the Tigers botched the relay throw to first. The soaring ball nipped off of the top of Patterson first baseman Nico Plascencia’s glove, sailing over his head and allowing a runner to score.
The Tigers found themselves in trouble again in the third inning.
Hilmar patiently drew back-to-back one-out walks, capitalizing on A.J. Miranda’s single to left field, plating the Yellowjackets’ second run of the game.
Patterson’s half of the third started out promising.
The Tigers’ Anthony Sanchez led off the inning with a double into the right-field gap. Teammate Daniel Reza followed with a walk, putting runners on first and second with no outs. A solid Hilmar defense prevented the runners from advancing any further.
Patterson’s Daniel Kifle popped up a bunt to the Yellowjacket pitcher, attempting to move the Tigers’ runners into scoring position.
Tiger catcher Keith Yamamoto ripped a line drive directly to Hilmar’s shortstop for a second out. Sanchez was caught off of the second-base bag. He tried to scurry back, but he could not beat out the throw and was doubled off, ending the inning.
Reza — who took over in relief to end the third inning — kept Patterson in the game, retiring the first seven batters he faced.
The Tigers had yet another opportunity to produce in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Patterson’s Larry Navarro drew a leadoff walk, and Plascencia reached base on an error by Hilmar’s shortstop. Sanchez pushed a bunt into no-man’s land — just behind the Yellowjackets’ pitcher — that loaded the bases for Patterson with no outs.
The threat, however, was over as quickly as it had begun.
The Tigers’ next three batters went down in order, keeping the Yellowjackets’ advantage at 2-0.
“We just couldn’t get that big hit,” Lozano said. “One hit can make the difference between getting nothing and putting together a big inning.”
Hilmar added another run to its lead in the top of the sixth.
Another Patterson defensive lapse put the lead runner aboard for the Yellowjackets.
Hilmar’s Carl Jamison drilled a two-out double to right, scoring his team’s third run of the game — the first given up by Reza.
Patterson manufactured its final rally in the bottom of the inning.
The Tigers’ Waylon Berrios and Jake Saavedra led off with a pair of singles. The two advanced to second and third on a Hilmar wild pitch, putting both runners in scoring position with no outs.
Patterson once again began to buckle, with its next two batters going down on strikes.
Plascencia managed a two-out walk to load the bases for Patterson, with Sanchez, calmly drawing a walk of his own.
Berrios trotted home for the Tigers’ first run of the game.
Patterson ended the sixth trailing 3-1.
Reza made quick work of the Yellowjackets in the top of the seventh, but the Tigers managed just one more run in the bottom half of the inning before running out of steam and scoring chances.
Despite the tough loss, Lozano remains optimistic that his team can still pull itself together for a midseason surge toward the playoffs.
“Our three league losses are by a combined three runs,” he said. “We’ve been one or two hits away from maybe being 5-0. We really feel like we can compete with anyone when we are playing our best ball."
To reach Marc Aceves at the Irrigator, call 892-6187 or e-mail him at email@example.com