CHS baseball wins at Mt. SAC tourney

Claremont began its baseball season last week with high hopes following a 13-12 overall 2012 record. The Wolfpack started 7 seniors in their second match of the Dick’s Sporting Goods Tournament against Santiago High of Corona. A 4-run second inning propelled the Pack to a 7-4 victory over the Sharks, making it 2 wins on the trot to start the 2013 season.

The Wolfpack left it late to beat Colony in their opening game, coming from behind and scoring 5 unanswered runs for the win. Santiago, on the other hand, had no trouble dispatching Baldwin Park 11-0.

For Wednesday’s game, the Pack’s right-hander David Valdivia squared up against the Sharks’ Eric Jimenez. Claremont head coach Geoff Ranney knew he had help on the bench.

“We wanted David to go as long as he could without exceeding his threshold in pitches,” Coach Ranney said. “But, we knew we had guys on the bench that could come in and do a great job.”

Claremont batted first, and exhibited some intelligent base running. Center fielder Collin DeBranch beat out a grounder and was sacrificed to second base, and then second baseman Jeremy Giles drew a walk. Shortstop Tyler Witt loaded the bases with a shallow single, as DeBranch held up at third base. Santiago pitcher Jimenez threw a wild pitch to the next batter, and DeBranch raced home to open the scoring.

Valdivia got off to an excellent start, retiring the Sharks’ first 3 batters in a row. In the top of the second inning, the Wolfpack picked up where they left off. With runners on second and third, DeBranch bounced a base hit through the gap in the middle of the infield, and both runners scored. Giles knocked another single past the infield to score the third Claremont run, and then Witt smashed a triple over the center fielder’s head to bring Giles around.

Sharks coach Ty De Trinidad promptly sent for a new pitcher, bringing in curveball specialist Troy Hodgson.

“Ty has a great program at Santiago and we knew it wouldn’t be an easy game. It was nice to have those 5 insurance runs to help us weather the storm,” Coach Ranney said.

Santiago pitcher Hodgson shut down Claremont hitters, holding them scoreless over the next 4 and two-thirds innings. Valdivia, meanwhile, got himself into some trouble in the bottom of the third inning. Valdivia walked the first batter, and gave up a single to the next, before Sharks first baseman Kevin Morgan lined a triple to the right and knocked in 2 runs. Valdivia got the next 2 batters out to leave Morgan on third base.

The next inning, the Wolfpack almost got into some more hot water. With 2 men on base and a full count to Santiago left fielder Jeremy Goldenetz, Valdivia painted the outside corner. But the umpire called ball 4 to the dismay of Claremont supporters, loading the bases. Valdivia then induced a ground ball from the next batter, which Witt and Giles turned into an inning-ending double play.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Sharks again got to Valdivia. The first 2 batters of the inning both walked, and were bunted over to second and third base. With 2 outs, Santiago second baseman Trevor Millard punched a 2 RBI single into center field to narrow Claremont’s lead to 5-4.

“You can never take the other team as being out of a game at any point, but we will always keep fighting,” Coach Ranney said.

Nevertheless, Claremont did not let the Sharks score again. Relief pitcher Jonathon Ochoa came into the game in the sixth inning and dispatched the first 3 batters he faced, using a combination of sinking fastballs and sliders. The Wolfpack added a couple of insurance runs courtesy of 2 fielding errors by Santiago infielders. Ochoa then came out for the seventh and final inning and struck out the last Sharks hitter.

Claremont moves on to face Bonita in their third game of the tournament. Bonita is coming off of a 3-1 victory over Carter. The Bearcats look confident after winning their first 2 games of the season. The Wolfpack hope to win their third in a row tonight, Friday, March 1, at Mt. San Antonio College. Game time is 7 p.m.

—Chris Oakley


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