Above: Arcadia pitcher Erik Trask
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
BURBANK – All it took was one long hit.
Brandon Benson, Arcadia High School’s No. 6 hitter, doubled off the left-field netting at Burbank’s strange high-netting outfield fences.
“Brandon has been struggling a little bit,” Arcadia coach Nick Lemas said. “The potential is there for him to be a big-time hitter in our lineup. I thought it was gone, but this is a different ballpark. It was as high up there as it can be.”
Benson thought it was a pop-out.
“I really thought I popped it straight up,” the senior said. “I got lucky, I guess.”
What the two-out hit in the top of the fifth inning did was get the visiting Apaches over their spring break rustiness en route to a 2-1 victory over Burbank in a Pacific League game on Tuesday.
“I guess it just took one hit,” Benson said. “One hit makes a chain reaction.”
The victory was the Apaches’ 34th consecutive league victory and third this season. Their last defeat? Against Burbank in 2009. The Bulldogs are 2-2 in league this year.
The teams were locked in a scoreless duel in which neither team seemed to find an opening. Burbank left-hander Daniel Starkand had given up two singles in earlier innings but induced the Apaches (12-3 overall) into subsequent double plays.
“They did a good job of hitting their spots, throwing strikes and making us put it in play,” Lemas said. “We were able to get enough to get out of here with a `W.’ ”
Arcadia pitcherErik Trask had given up a two-out walk in the first in which Dylan Mersola reached third base, only for the right-handed pitcher to get cleanup hitter Harry Hernandez to ground out. Two innings later, Mersola hit a lead-off double and was thrown out by catcher Brendan Campbell trying to reach third base after a wild pitch for the first out of the inning.
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“It was a pitcher’s duel that could go either way,” Burbank coach Bob Hart said. “We had our chances early in the game. All that matters.”
With Benson on second base in the fifth, Trask hit a grounder at shortstop Mersola. He got his glove on the ball, but it spun away from him in the dirt, not far from where he tried to field it. Benson never stopped and scored the game’s first run.
“We took advantage of it,” Lemas said. “I don’t think he was ready to throw it home when he got to the ball. I think he was kind of surprised we were going.”
Benson said he wasn’t going to stop anyway.
“If it gets past him, I’m going for sure,” he said.
But what irked Hart was that Mersola threw home instead of to second baseman Hector Rodriguez. Trask took second on that throw.
Drew Klein, the No. 9 hitter, then hit a sharp single down the left-field line to give the Apaches a 2-0 lead.
“With two outs, (Benson’s) on the move with the swing,” Hart said. “The part that’s not seen there is we don’t keep that guy off second base. The second run could have been avoided by a throw to second base instead of a throw home.”
Arcadia was coming off spring break. The Apaches did not practice for four days after finishing the Apache Invitational on the first weekend of April.
“We had four days off,” said Klein, who said he was waiting on Starkand’s fastball. “I guess we were a little off. But we keep hanging in there.”
Burbank finally got to Trask in the sixth inning. With one out, Ricky Perez singled through the third base-shortstop hole. Lemas called for his only mound meeting with his top pitcher.
“He did a really good job,” Lemas said of Trask. “He has been solid for us. He’s pitched all of the tough games.”
Lemas wanted Trask to concentrate on Mersola, who hit a soft grounder back to the pitcher.
Paul Frias then doubled down the left-field line to make it 2-1 and Hernandez grounded out to end the Bulldogs’ last threat.
Reliever Andrew Cordeiro got the game’s final three outs.