By GERARDO RECINOS
It only took a half inning of less than perfect execution to doom the Bulldogs on Tuesday afternoon against Benicia.
The Panthers scored three times in the opening frame of their 3-0 win on March 7, and that was really all they needed against Alhambra right-hander Cole Gifford.
Truth be told, the junior settled in and threw his second complete game of the season in the loss. But he had little help from the offense as senior duo Lucas Abbas and Cole Eigenhuis shut them down.
But the damage was done by the time the Bulldogs got up to the plate to take their first at bats.
An error off the bat of Ian Phillips on the very first pitch of the game set the tone. He was moved over when shortstop Joey Daini singled to right. Phillips was driven in by Steve Urias, and Daini was driven in by senior Kyle Galiza.
Urias was driven in on a fielder’s choice by Elijah Birdsong, and with three runs across the plate, Abbas was in a position to challenge the Bulldogs before even stepping foot on the mound.
With the size of Knowles Field, the pitchers always have an advantage when it comes to how they can pitch. That has benefited the pitching-rich Bulldogs in the past, but has also hurt them at times as well. So far this season the Bulldogs have scored five runs in three games at home, which you can live with when they shutout their opponents.
But on an afternoon when they have to battle back from the first at bat, it was always going to be a tough climb.
Only Jordyn Eglite managed a two-hit performance for the Bulldogs, but perhaps the most frustrating thing about the team’s five-hit performance was how often they got on base with less than two outs, and couldn’t do a thing.
Abbas allowed seven base runners in his five innings of work, but of those seven, five reached base with less than two outs.
The senior for the Panthers managed to evade danger with less-than overpowering stuff. He only struck out four Alhambra hitters on the afternoon.
However only two hitters reached third base, and only one did so with less than two outs, which restricted coach Ray Stokes from playing small ball to drive in the run, something he has shown a propensity to do early on this season.
Even when they caught a break they couldn’t score. Eglite laced a triple to right field that just managed to clip the right-field wall, avoiding the ground-rule double.
With Eglite on third base, clean-up hitter Zach Schuler struck out looking.
A one-out walk by Garrett Swartz in the sixth inning was wasted when the junior was picked off first base. Andrew Costa proceeded to strike out soon thereafter to kill the rally.
The Bulldogs went down quietly in the seventh inning to lock in their second loss of the season, and broke their two-game winning streak against the team across the bridge. The Bulldogs last fell to Benicia in 2014. They were shutout then, too, 1-0.