AT THE TOP: Whittier High School got help from pitcher Cody Carmona, above, to score a 14-2
victory over El Rancho Wednesday to take over first in the Del Rio League.
(Staff photo by Keith Durflinger)
For much of the season, the Whittier High School baseball team has looked like the best team in the Del Rio League.
For now, they are the best.
Nick Vaca went 2 for 4, including a grand slam, and Cody Carmona was steady on the mound and Whittier took over first place Wednesday with a 14-2 victory over visiting El Rancho at Jack Mele Field.
The Cardinals, also getting two hits and two RBIs from Jose Romero, improved to 12-7 overall and 6-2 in league.
El Rancho, which had won its past five league games, slipped to 9-8 and 5-3. The Dons, getting three hits from Julian Vizcarra, have lost five consecutive games after dropping four games in last week’s St. Paul Easter Tournament.
The two teams play at El Rancho on Friday.
“It’s a huge win,” said Whittier coach Eric Ramirez, whose Cardinals held on for an 11-10 victory over El Rancho last month. “It gives us the series win and the tiebreaker (for the league title).
“They’ll play with a lot of pressure on Friday, while (there will not be) as much for us.”
Whittier, which had 13 hits, took control in the third and fourth innings and went ahead 5-0 after taking advantage of two errors.
Josh Samaniego, Hector Ramirez and Damian Salcedo had singles to load the bases. Romero then reached on an infield error for a 2-0 lead before Johnny Salgado followed with a RBI single and Nick Sosa had an RBI grounder for a 4-0 lead.
The Cardinals then capitalized on another Dons error for a 5-0 lead in the fourth. El Rancho had seven errors in the game.
“I have to give them a lot of credit because they do the basics better than anyone else around here,” El Rancho coach Frank Llanes said. “They put the bat on the ball, they bunt, they throw strikes and they don’t make mistakes. It’s tough to beat a team that doesn’t make mistakes.
“Today, we made seven errors. We gave them an extra two innings and a third of outs to work with. You give a team extra chances, especially a good team, they’re going to capitalize.”
El Rancho, taking advantage of a Whittier throwing error, rallied to make it 5-2 in the fifth. But Carmona, who gave up seven hits and struck out five, struck out Kevin Rodriguez and Frank Vargas before J.J. Aguilar was thrown out trying to steal.
Whittier then pushed the advantage to 7-2 in its fifth by scoring two runs on a double by Romero, an error and a RBI single by Carmona.
“That (sequence) was huge for us,” Eric Ramirez said. “I told the pitchers after the game (that’s) what we need from them. You have to work out of a jam, because the defense is not always going to help you out. (Carmona) made his pitches, and that was the turning point of the game.
“Once we got out of that, we kind of rolled again after that. We put the pressure back on them. We get on these guys about not letting up and today they didn’t let up.”
Whittier then put it away in the sixth with seven runs on four hits and two more El Rancho errors.
Vaca had the big hit, a grand slam to left for a 13-2 lead.
“We just didn’t get it done,” Llanes said. “We had a lot of guys who didn’t come through today. We’ll fix tomorrow and come back Friday.”