The Patterson Tigers cemented a win after securing three runs in the third inning to beat East Union High of Manteca 3-2 in their last non-conference game Monday, March 17, at Patterson High School.
It’s been a rough go around for the Tigers this season, winning only 2 of 5 non-conference games thus far in the season. It was a very close game with the Tigers going out to a 3-0 lead only to watch it fade in the final innings, hanging on to win by a score of 3-2 over the East Union Lancers.
Some major plays had both teams coming through in the clutch. Tigers’ catcher Zantino Bustos made a defensive gem when a Lancers batter popped the ball into the air, allowing Zantino to pull it in for the second out in the top of the first inning. It was a tough defensive game for both teams until the Tigers were able to pull ahead for the lead in the third inning.
Seniors Jacob Gomez, Jake Thompson and junior Travis Lockhart were able to score three runs thanks to freshman Santiago Cantu who batted in two of the three players off a double.
But a few bobbles and scoring opportunities kept the team from holding its pristine lead.
It wasn’t long before the Lancers started hitting the ball with a little more ambition. In the top of the fourth, East Union was able to jot down one run for the record books, leaving the Tigers little room for error.
Tigers’ shortstop, Sal Becerra, answered back, providing amazing defensive plays in the top of the fifth. Becerra distinctly caught a tough line drive and threw out the runner at first for a very close play.
“The coach always tells us to just relax and play baseball,” said Becerra. “I was a little nervous—I remember my coaches’ teaching and that’s exactly what I did. I played baseball.”
Despite the tough defense, a costly mistake was made on offense, including a run to first by Gomez in the bottom of the fifth. Gomez walked off the field, thinking himself to be out after a hit right to the short stop. A somewhat bewildered Gomez hustled back to first base, only to be called out again by the field umpire.
The Lancers answered back with another run in the top of the sixth to provide a 3-2 game for the Tigers. Pitcher Travis Lockhart, who pitched his first start of the season, held the game for the first six innings, earning praise from head coach Benji Lozano.
Junior Paul Maese took over the mound with a rough start in the last inning. Maese walked the first batter he faced, then hit the second batter. With two on and no outs, the game looked to be in a dire position.
Catcher Garrett Fowler was called to take over the mound despite having little experience in the pitching position. The first pitch was a ball, allowing the runners to advance to second and third without any outs. The next few pitches were uplifting, as he proceeded to strike out the next Lancer at bat.
The next batter sent a pop fly near third base where it was easily caught by a Patterson defender. One out remained with runners on second and third. Fowler intentionally walked the next batter, marking bases loaded. It was all or nothing for the Tigers now.
Without further ado, Fowler threw a tight inside pitch sending the ball high into deep right for an easy out. The Tigers had won a close contest 3-2.
Fowler later commented that the win was a team effort, and thanks in part to his coaches’ belief in their team.
“The coaches think I can do this because I don’t seem to get rattled out there, and they knew I could do it,” said Fowler. “I’m glad they knew it, because my heart was pounding so hard in my chest that I thought everyone could hear it.”
The Tigers faced off against Central Valley of Ceres at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 18, at Central Valley High School.
Randy Sawyer is the temporary sports writer for the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at RandySaw1@gvni.com.