Photo gallery: Montebello-Alhambra baseball
By John Sherrard, Correspondent
MONTEBELLO – Montebello High School pitcher Daniel Lopez was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts Friday, but not one of his teammates or coaches cared.
They even gathered in the dugout after the game for a mock cheer for his at-bats.
Things are going quite well for the Oilers baseball team, which defeated visiting Alhambra, 3-1, behind a complete-game, two-hit performance by Lopez in an Almont League game Friday.
“It’s always going to be a dogfight and I’ve been here (varsity) four years, and this is the first time we won the series,” Lopez said. “It’s a huge win for us.”
Montebello (10-7, 8-1) is in prime position to win its first outright league title since the 2004 season when it won back-to-back crowns. Alhambra (10-6, 7-2) has won the league championship the past eight years.
Both teams still have six league games remaining, but if the Moors have any thoughts of winning their ninth consecutive title, they must get some help.
“Just the fact that we’re a game up and we now have the tiebreaker in case there is a tie, it puts us in a good situation,” Montebello coach Rafael Gutierrez said.
“But we have some tough games coming up. We’ll enjoy this game and make sure we don’t lose focus.”
Montebello scored a run in the first inning for a 1-0 lead on a single by junior catcher Ryan Orozco (2 for 3) that scored shortstop Andrew Jimenez (1 for 3). Jimenez advanced to second on a throwing error by Alhambra pitcher Jose Amezquita (six strikeouts) and went to third on a wild pitch.
Alhambra, which reached the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 final last season, tied the game 1-1 in the third inning. Senior second baseman Andrew Arroyo singled, was sacrificed to second by catcher Brandon Morales and moved to third on an infield out. He then came home on an infield single by right fielder Jonah Lybarger, who advanced to second when Jimenez threw the ball low to first.
Alhambra had a chance to take the lead when Lopez attempted a pickoff of Lybarger, who moved to third after the ball was misplayed and went into center field. Lybarger rounded third but was thrown out on the relay from Lopez (2-0) to third baseman Jesse Flores.
Meanwhile, Amezquita (3-3) was in control through the fourth inning before the Oilers took the lead for good, 2-1.
Orozco singled and eventually came home on a fielders’ choice by right fielder Jaime Martinez (1 for 3, stolen base, two RBIs).
Martinez singled in pinch-runner Andres Santana to give the Oilers a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning.
“It’s always a great series (with Montebello), and our staff and their staff (have) been here a long time and they’re always close games,” Alhambra coach Steve Gewecke said.
“All I know is (that) we have six more league games and we really can’t lose any of them.”