By GERARDO RECINOS
For the third straight year the Bulldogs will be playing in the championship game of their own Easter Tournament.
It took an extra inning of action against a tough Pittsburg team, but the Bulldogs finally prevailed in the eight inning by a mark of 4-3.
Alhambra starter Cole Gifford wasn’t in his best form, allowing three runs in three innings. But he was picked up by teammate Marshall Stanghellini, who went five shutout innings in relief.
Gifford managed to hold it together despite a slow start. The Pirates scored twice in the first inning. The Pirates loaded the bases with a pair of hits, and a hit by pitch before scoring twice.
It should be noted however, that the Pirates didn’t necessarily hit Gifford all that hard.
Their first two runs scored on a fielder’s choice and throwing error, and while he allowed five hits and a walk, he also stranded four runners.
But still, when he left the game the situation looked bleak.
The Bulldogs have struggled at the plate all season, but even for them, this was a new benchmark.
Immediately after going down 3-0, the Bulldogs answered back. Sophomore Andrew Costa singled and came around to score on a bunt single by another sophomore, Tyler Boyce.
But with a runner on third and no outs, three Bulldogs struck out with the chance to get the run in. Credit should be given to Pittsburg starter Christian Blevins.
But the Bulldogs were clearly peeved to have not been able to drive in a run. Especially when it wouldn’t have taken a hit to do so.
Enter left-hander Marshall Stanghellini.
With a lively fast ball and a sharp curve, the southpaw was effectively wild. But he had enough stuff to handcuff the Pirates’ hitters.
He struck out the side in the fourth inning, despite allowing a pair of walks, and managed to strand another hitter who reached via base on balls in the fifth as well.
In fact the junior lefty only allowed a single hit, which was a huge contributor to the comeback. Stanghellini only threw 12 pitches in the top half of the sixth inning, and gave his team a chance to make up for the previous inning, where Trent Greene was cut down at home plate trying to score on a safety squeeze.
After Spencer Schulhauser reached base, fellow senior Tom Peon del Valle laced the first pitch to left field to put a man in scoring position.
Both boys would come around to score on a single by senior Jordyn Eglite, and a hard single up the middle by Boyce.
Again with two runners on and only one out, the Bulldogs could’ve taken the lead right then and there.
But again they left the Eglite stranded at third with a pair of pop outs from the heart of the order.
It wasn’t until the third time in the game that Eglite reached third base that he would score.
The senior first basemen reached on an error, and then came around to score on yet another error made by a Pittsburg infielder off the bat of Stanghellini, the night’s pitcher of record.
The reliever was mobbed at first base for his performance not only on the mound, but at the plate as well, where he went 3-for-5 with three singles.
With the win the Bulldogs went on to match up with Clayton Valley Charter High School in the tournament title game. The results of that game will be in the April 14, 2017 issue of the Tribune.