By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
PASADENA — The heat was on in Tuesday afternoon’s Del Rey League baseball game between St. Paul and La Salle high schools.
Which begged the question, who would wilt first?
La Salle No. 9 hitter Henry Smither sent a 2-2 A. J. Gonzalez pitch into shallow center field for a run-scoring single in the fifth inning to give the Lancers a 1-0 victory, ending a nine-game losing streak to the Swordsmen.
“It looked like he was getting a little tired, but when you got up there, he was still bringing it,” Smither said of Gonzalez. “He didn’t get too many pitches over the plate and I turned on it.”
Gonzalez and La Salle pitcher Bowdien Derby put on a masterful duel.
Gonzalez gave up four hits, struck out six, walked one and hit two batters. Derby gave up two hits and struck out six.
The Lancers had three of their four hits in the fifth inning. Smither drove in Chris Williams, who reached base by beating out a slow roller to third baseman Gabe Arrizon. Nick Brown sacrificed him to second, and Williams took third on a wild pitch.
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“He did everything he needed to do to win,” St. Paul coach Casey Morales said of Gonzalez. “He let a No. 9 hitter off when he probably shouldn’t have, but that’s high school baseball. We played good solid defense and had good pitching. They played good defense and their pitching was a little better.”
Gonzalez said he lost his focus in that inning, also giving up a double to right-center field to Noeh Martinez.
“I got tired in that inning and that was it,” Gonzalez said. “It was just that inning. I guess I just lost my mechanics and I left the ball hanging.”
It was a big victory for the Lancers, who hadn’t defeated St. Paul since 2008, the current crop of seniors’ freshman season.
“It was big,” Derby said. “We knew this year we had the team to do it.”
Derby threw only 72 pitches. He hadn’t pitched in 14 days but he was just as strong at the finish as he was at the start.
“That’s the whole key,” La Salle coach Harry Agajanian said. “He threw first-pitch strikes. Hes’ a complete kind of pitcher.”
The Swordsmen’s first hit was a shallow single to right field by Anthony Ybarra in the fourth inning. The second hit was a seventh-inning single by Larson Anzaldo through the right side of the infield.
St. Paul hit the ball 15 times to Lancers infielders and hit only two fly balls. Seven of the groundouts were fielded by second baseman John Auer.
“We played pepper with the second baseman all day long,” Morales said.
Agajanian said defense has given his pitchers confidence.
“We had a good defense behind Derby,” He said. “I was making sure I got those ground balls. I kept the ball low and did my job, and my teammates did their job behind me.”
The Swordsmen’s best chance at scoring came in the second inning. Ybarra reached base on a throwing error by third baseman Williams. George Zepeda moved him to third base on a groundout, but Derby then got consecutive strikeouts to end the threat.