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.”
CIF-Southern Section playoff results
Baseball Second Round
South Hills 3, Paramount 1, 11 innings
Damien 7, Oxnard 4 Division 3
Bishop Amat 3, Walnut 2
Beckman 8, Charter Oak 7
Woodbridge 6, San Dimas 2 Division 5
Woodcrest Christian 10, South El Monte 0
Tahquitz 9, Sierra Vista 8, 10 innings Friday’s Quarterfinals
Foothill at South Hills, 3:15 p.m.
Mission Viejo at Damien, 3:15 p.m. Division 3
Woodbridge at Bishop Amat, 3:15 p.m.
Softball Second Round results
South Hills 11, Dana Hills 0 Division 3
Bishop Amat 9, Chaffey 4 Division 5
San Dimas 15, Edgewood 0
Nogales 6, Fillmore 3 Thursday’s Quarterfinals
Valley View at South Hills, 3:15 p.m. Division 3
Laguna Hills at Bishop Amat, 3:15 p.m. Division 5
St. Bonaventure at San Dimas, 3:15 p.m.
Nogales at Louisville, 3:15 p.m.
By Fred J. Robledo
Baldwin Park — For a team that allowed just 30 runs, and 16 earned all season, Sierra Vista’s baseball team and its pitching staff that boasts an eye-popping team ERA of 0.83, wondered how it would hold up in the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.
For a game at least, senior Adrian Cardenas answered that, throwing a three-hitter to lead Sierra Vista to a 5-1 victory over visiting Aquinas to advance to Tuesday’s second round on the road at Tahquitz, a 4-3 winner over Maranatha.
“It was a great win,” Cardenas said. “My defense had my back the whole game, they made the major plays when they had to.”
The Dons’ (21-2) offense did their job too.
Austin Morales singled home Jamyz Celiz for a 1-0 lead in the second and Matthew Aguayo singled in Cardenas for a 2-0 lead in the third. That should have been it, but an Aquinas (16-10) error led to two more runs and a 4-0 lead.
Aquinas had a huge opportunity to claw back in the fourth inning after Nick Ojinaga and Julian Holendor led off with back-to-back singles. Andrew Aguilera’s slow roller to third was mishandled and leaked into left field, allowing Ojinaga to score to make it 4-1 with two runners on and no outs.
But Cardenas, who improved to 8-1, showed why he’s so good by striking out the next three batters to get out of it. He finished with seven strikeouts.
For Falcons coach Robert De La Torre, that was the turning point.
“We had a run in and guys on base and no outs against a team that gave up 30-something runs all year and we couldn’t do it,” De La Torre said. “That was our chance to do something. He’s (Cardenas) been a bulldog all year long and after he struck out the side to get out of it, their was no touching him after that.”
Sierra Vista’s Daniel Lona scored from second on a failed pickoff attempt in the fourth, and that’s typically how the Dons score runs, being aggressive on the bases, and chipping away inning after inning.
“We take a lot of pride in our running and pressuring people,” Stevens said. “If you can keep it up and keep the pressure on for seven innings, a high school baseball team usually breaks. We forced them into a couple of errors and that’s how we play.”
CIF-Southern Section Playoff Schedule
Friday’s first-round results
Charter Oak 5, Paloma Valley 3
La Quinta 6, Covina 5
San Dimas 3, Arroyo Grande 2
Bishop Amat 5, Palos Verdes 0 Division 5
Sierra Vista 5, Aquinas 1
Ganesha 4, Bishop Montgomery 3
Lompoc Cabrillo 6, Baldwin Park 1
Saddleback Valley Christian at South El Monte, Saturday, 11 a.m.
Tuesday’s Second Round
South Hills at Paramount, 3:15 p.m.
Damien at Oxnard, 3:15 p.m. Division 3
Bishop Amat at Walnut, 3:15 p.m.
San Dimas at Woodbridge, 3:15 p.m.
Beckman at Charter Oak, 3:15 p.m. Division 5
Sierra Vista at Tahquitz, 3:15 p.m.
Monrovia at Ganesha, 3:15 p.m.
South Hills at Dana Hills, 3:15 p.m. Division 3
Bishop Amat at Chaffey, 3:15 p.m. Division 5
San Dimas at Edgewood, 3:15 p.m.
Fillmore at Nogales, 3:15 p.m.
By Fred Robledo
LA PUENTE — Bishop Amat waited longer than it wanted to break the game open against visiting Paramount in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 softball playoffs, but when the second-seed Lancers broke through, they kept their foot on the gas. Bishop Amat catcher Julia Valenzuela belted two doubles, scored and drove in two runs. Alyssa Barrera had a pair of doubles and an RBI and pitcher Samaria Diaz threw a complete game two-hit shutout, and doubled home three runs in an 8-0 rout over Paramount to advance to Tuesday’s second round on the road against Chaffey, a 5-4 upset winner over California.
“We wanted to come out with a bang and put a lot of runs on the board,” Barrera said. “We got to get the bats going, so that’s great to see the bats coming together in the first round.”
After wasting the lead runners in the first three innings, Valenzuela doubled to lead off the fourth. Two outs later, Barrera doubled her home for a 1-0 lead.
With runners on second and third and two outs in the fifth, Valenzuela came through again, doubling home Diaz and Karissa Dunn for a 3-0 lead. Aja Martinez singled home Valenzuela to make it 4-0, which was more than enough for Diaz.
“I’m really trying to go up there and get on base and get my team started because I have a great lineup all around me,” Valenzuela said.
Diaz helped herself with a bases-loaded double in the sixth that cleared the bases for a 7-0 lead and she was her dominating self in the circle, allowing just a hit in the first and seventh, retiring 15 straight at one point. She also had six strikeouts.
“It’s a good (start),” Diaz said. “We gotta lot of games to go and we want to win them all. We’ve got to stay efocused.”