By Fred J. Robledo
Bishop Amat’s Isaac Esqueda was called upon in the big moments and delivered for the Lancers in a nerve-wracking 3-2 victory over host Walnut to advance to Friday’s CIF Southern Section Division 3 baseball quarterfinals.
Pinch hitting in the seventh inning with the bases loaded, two outs and the score tied 1-1, Esqueda doubled to left scoring Dante Castillo and Torreahno Sweet to go up 3-1.
“Isaac has kind of been that guy later in the season, we went with him, felt like he was our best option and he battled,” Bishop Amat coach Joe Hoggatt said. “He went the other way (to left) and that was huge. It was clutch hitting.”
But Esqueda wasn’t done.
Amat’s sophomore starting lefty Diego Barrera, whose only fault had been giving up a solo homer to Quinn Cooper in the fourth inning that tied the score, 1-1, left the game in the seventh with runners on first and second and one out, handing it over to Esqueda to finish.
Amat threw away a potential game-ending double play that allowed a run to score to make it 3-2, with Walnut’s Jake Rodriguez moving to second, and eventually third on a wild pitch.
But Esqueda struck out Andre Alvarez to end it, and Bishop Amat (19-13) will be home in Friday’s quarterfinals against third-seed Woodbridge, a 6-2 winner over San Dimas.
“I tried to stay relaxed, keep it simple and get the job done,” Esqueda said of his closing role. “Feels great, we know they’re a good team and they’re tough to beat. We did our job and executed and now it’s on to the next game.”
Both starting pitchers were fantastic.
Walnut sophomore Brock Cooper had gotten clutch outs in the first three innings before Adryan Ramirez singled home Nick DiFiori for a 1-0 Lancers’ lead, which Quinn Cooper made short lived with his homer to right in the bottom half of the inning to tie it.
But Barrera was just a tad better, improving to 9-2 and only allowing four hits in 6 1/3 innings.
“The kid walked (into Bishop Amat) with poise, we’re very lucky to have him on our staff,” Hoggatt said. “He’s got poise that college kids have. Nothing flaps him, he gave up a home run and came back and shut them down.”
Walnut, which had advanced to the championship a year ago after knocking off San Dimas, who was undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today at the time, played well enough to win, but couldn’t capitalize when it had too.
“We had chances,” Walnut coach Paul Acosta said. “I respect Bishop Amat, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy, it was going to be this way, one run, and they got us.
“Diego Barrera pitched a great game, he changed his speeds and we had a tough time getting to that. It could have gone either way, buy my boys fought hard to the end. I wish we could play them again.”
South Hills baseball wins in 11 innings: For the fifth time in the last nine years, the South Hills High School baseball team is headed to the CIF Southern Section quarterfinals. And it took 11 innings to accomplish the latest trip.
In a scoreless game for 10 1/3 innings, South Hills senior right fielder Quinn Cotter ended the drought for both teams with a go-ahead, run-scoring double to left-center field, scoring junior first baseman Johnny Dearth and the Huskies defeated Paramount 3-1 in a Division 2 second-round game Tuesday afternoon.
San Dimas softball trounces Edgewood: After losing to San Dimas in the CIF-SS Division 5 softball playoffs last season, Edgewood looked to avenge the loss Tuesday in a second-round rematch. But the well-rounded Saints dashed those hopes in a 15-0, mercy rule-shortened victory on the road.
The Saints (18-8) scored at least once in every inning, led by center fielder Brooke Jackson, who went 3 for 5 with three RBIs, two doubles and a walk.
The Saints used a balanced attack and took advantage of multiple defensive miscues with contributions from Alexandria Rodriguez (2 for 4, 5 RBIs, double) and Clarissa Reynoso (1 for 3, double, 2 RBIs). Pitcher Alondra Reynoso improved her record to 13-4.
CIF-Southern Section playoff results
Baseball Second Round
South Hills 3, Paramount 1, 11 innings
Damien 7, Oxnard 4
Bishop Amat 3, Walnut 2
Beckman 8, Charter Oak 7
Woodbridge 6, San Dimas 2
Woodcrest Christian 10, South El Monte 0
Tahquitz 9, Sierra Vista 8, 10 innings
Foothill at South Hills, 3:15 p.m.
Mission Viejo at Damien, 3:15 p.m.
Woodbridge at Bishop Amat, 3:15 p.m.
Softball Second Round results
South Hills 11, Dana Hills 0
Bishop Amat 9, Chaffey 4
San Dimas 15, Edgewood 0
Nogales 6, Fillmore 3
Valley View at South Hills, 3:15 p.m.
Laguna Hills at Bishop Amat, 3:15 p.m.
St. Bonaventure at San Dimas, 3:15 p.m.
Nogales at Louisville, 3:15 p.m.