By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
LA PUENTE — There’s a sign in the Bishop Amat High School baseball team’s dugout that reads “Two-out rallies win championships.”
La Salle fell victim to Bishop Amat’s battle cry as Adam Alcantara drove in the first run on an RBI single andEvan Claproth connected for a three-run home run to give Bishop Amat all the runs it would need in a 6-2 Del Rey League victory Friday afternoon.
The victory was bittersweet for Bishop Amat (4-5, 3-0) which again played without standout pitcher/third baseman Rio Ruiz, who that morning underwent surgery on his neck to remove a blood clot on a nerve that stopped blood flow to his right bicep. He is in stable condition and will seek a specialist for further evaluation.
Ruiz, who is commited to USC, had complained of a bicep strain earlier in the week. The blood clot was discovered during a doctor’s exam Wednesday. Ruiz is considered a potential first-round draft pick, according to ESPN baseball analyst Keith Law.
“We just heard that he’s resting and recovering fine and in stable condition,” said Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto after the game. “I know talking to the La Salle family they all have their thoughts and prayer on Rio.”
Ruiz will remain in the hospital for at least two more days.
“He needs to get his health in order,” Nieto said. “It wasn’t an emergency surgery. It was more of a, ‘Hey, we found it, let’s fix it.’”
When asked if Ruiz is out for the season, Nieto was noncommital.
“That’s still hard to say,” he said. “You know what he means to us, but the priority is to get his health in order.”
La Salle coach Harry Agajanian wanted to see a Ruiz-Bowdien Derby battle on the mound, but was more concerned about his health when he found out about Ruiz’s surgery.
“Our prayers are with Rio Ruiz,” La Salle coach Harry Agajanian said. “We miss him out there. I miss talking to him over at third base.”
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Without Ruiz, Bishop Amat moved forward, for the day anyway, as Daniel Zamora headed to the mound and wasn’t fazed by La Salle’s(5-3-1, 1-1) early 2-0 lead after the first, which was bizare to say the least.
La Salle’s Antonio Ruiz appeared to have a double, but was ruled out after it was ruled that he did not touch first base. When informed, Zamora threw to Alcantara at first for the second out. Bowdien Derby connected on a 1-1 pitch for a double to deep left field before David Sanchez singled in Derby, who beat the tag at home for a 1-0 lead.
Chris Williams then, on an 0-1 pitch, connected for a stand-up triple to shallow center, scoring Sanchez to give La Salle a 2-0 lead and on the right path for its first-ever win at Bishop Amat.
“We squandered it,” Agajanian said. “We had an error in the bottom of the third that with two outs, (Bishop Amat) took advantage of.”
Zamora wasn’t fazed by the early deficit. He would go the distance and give up no runs the rest of the way and only four hits. He struck out nine and topped at 89 miles per hour.
“Give credit to Zamora,” Nieto said. “Things were rocky. He was a couple hits from possibly being knocked out of the game.”
It helped that Zamora got timely hitting from his teammates. That was the case in the third inning when Scotty Hurst got on first on an error with two outs. He stole second before Andrew De La Cruz drew a four-pitch walk. Alcantara, on a 3-1 count, hit a single down the shortstop gap to pull Bishop Amat within 2-1. Then came Claproth’s three-run home run, connecting on a 2-2 pitch to smack the ball over the 309-foot center wall and give Bishop Amat a 4-2 lead it would not relinquish.
“Two-out rallies are huge,” Nieto said. “And hey, they did it (too). That’s how they got on the board. They put our backs on the wall early.”
Bishop Amat’s Michael Hernandez led off with a single in the fifth followed by a De La Cruz single. Alcantara drew an eight-pitch walk to load the bases and Claproth drove in Hernandez on a fielder’s choice up the middle to make it 5-2. Louie Moya’s RbI single to center made it 6-2.
Derby pitched five innings for La Salle and allowed five runs on six hits. His fastball was clocked at 91, and he struck out eight. La Salle left eightrunners stranded in the game, and its best chance came in the fifth with the bases loaded.
Agajanian said he didn’t think Derby was rattled in the third.
“I think Amat was just a little more focused,” he said. “They were on (Derby’s) pitches a little more. I think he left a slider hanging a couple of times. When it’s on he usually gets guys out.”
La Salle’s Ruiz got on base after a Bishop Amat error and stole second before Derby drew a six-pitch walk. Sanche moved th runners over on a sacrifice bunt and Williams was intentionally walked to load the bases and Michael Pedote at the plate, who flew out to right after two pitches.
When asked if he would play it differently on the sacrifice bunt, Agajanian said not necessarily.
“Because Pedote was our guy up,” he said. “They walked Chris Williams to get to Pedote and he usually has a pretty good stick, but he just got a little bit under it and got that lazy fly ball.”