By GABE AGURCIA
Special to the Tribune
Alhambra baseball lost a close one to Miramonte in Orinda on Tuesday, May 3, by a score of 7-6.
The Bulldogs jumped on starter James Vaccaro immediately. With Tyler Peters and Matt Beck on second and third, respectively, Jordyn Eglite ripped a two-out double to right-center, putting Alhambra up 2-0.
But the Matadors were unperturbed by the quick attack, responding in the bottom of the first inning.
Second baseman Trent Greene booted a grounder by lead-off man Zach Wong, who proceeded to steal second. Starter Cole Gifford walked Casey McGonigle, then got a force out at third base. After Miramonte loaded the bases Gifford got his first strikeout, but the Matadors got two singles, the second of which was a high chopper that skipped under shortstop Zach Elliott’s glove. The rally resulted in a 3-2 lead for Miramonte after the opening frame.
Alhambra threatened again in the second. Gifford drew a one-out walk, which was followed by consecutive singles from Tom Peon Del Valle and Greene. Unfortunately they couldn’t capitalize, leaving the scoreboard untouched.
Wong led off with a double in the second inning, moving to third base on McGonigle’s ground out. In a wacky turn of events, Wong tried to steal home. Gifford’s pitch short hopped catcher Josh Abraham, who knocked it down and grabbed it just in time to tag Wong out. Wong had lowered his shoulder into Abraham, sparking an uproar from the Bulldog dugout. Wong even trotted back to third, possibly thinking the ball had been foul tipped, but he was ruled out.
Gifford got his second strikeout to end the inning.
Alhambra drew even in the fourth. Brandon Muroka walked and stole second. Gavin Duncan pinch ran for him. Greene drew a walk, then Wong whiffed on a grounder at shortstop, allowing Duncan to sprint home and Greene to take third. The score was tied 3-3.
But just as they had in the first inning, the Matadors reciprocated. Gifford walked the bases loaded with no outs, prompting Coach Daryl King to pull him in favor of Brett Sterrer.
The first batter he faced lined one off his glove. The lead runner, Will McConnell, scored as the ball rolled away on the deflection.
Sterrer got the force out at second, but Elijah Hodges was able to come home simultaneously.
Just as it seemed Sterrer had gotten through the jam, Garrett Johnson stroked a two-out, RBI double to deep left, driving in Wong.
Miramonte took back the lead, 6-3.
The Bulldogs started their comeback attempt in the fifth inning.
Abraham led off with a single and took second on a wild pitch.
Eglite singled up the middle to put runner at first and third with no outs. Eglite advanced to second on Elliott’s ground out, although Abraham could not. However, Duncan picked him up, lining a ball off Vaccaro’s foot, giving Abraham time to score. Alhambra cut the deficit to 6-4.
After a 1-2-3 top half, Wong catalyzed the bottom of the sixth inning. He singled and stole second with two outs, then proceeded to score on a single to right, putting Miramonte ahead by three runs again.
Just as seemed Alhambra was defeated, the Bulldogs put together an exciting rally.
Tyler Peters stepped in to lead off the top of the seventh inning.
He absolutely smoked a line drive over the center fielder.
Miramonte’s field is connected to a second field, the other home plate mirroring the main one a cool 471 feet away. Peters’ liner bounced all the way to the opposite backstop. Peters never broke stride, diving head first and contorting around McConnell who had made his way a couple feet up the third base line to field the relay throw. Peters swiped the back of the plate just before McConnell swung around to tag him, causing the Bulldog dugout to erupt and even the Miramonte fans to cheer with excitement.
Eglite continued his productive offensive day, crushing a out-out triple to left center. Elliott’s sac fly drove him in, but Alhambra could only bring the tying run to the plate, grounding out to end the game.
King appreciated his team’s resiliency but pointed out the self-inflicted harm as reason for defeat. “We just came out and made some mental errors. Those killed us. Gave us too much to overcome.”
Although Gifford had a sub-par outing, for his standards, King was pleased with his starter. King thought he was “a little flat” and “didn’t have his best stuff,” but acknowledged that he’s been great all season and still competed despite the slight struggles.
“Sometimes as an athlete you just don’t have it. That’s natural.”