LOS ALTOS — Watsonville and Napa were considered two of the better teams in the West Zone NoCal Super Region Tournament, and on Friday both teams put on a Major League performance, but only one team would come away with the W.
Napa Pony’s Jake Rasmusen knocked in the game-winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to complete the late comeback and give Watsonville Pony its first loss of the tournament on Friday in Lost Altos.
Watsonville was able to jump out to an early lead in the first inning when both James Gomez Jr. and Jack Harris hit solo home runs. That lead would stand until the final inning when Napa went on a two-out rally and scored two runs including the game winner.
“It was just two good baseball teams battling,” said Watsonville coach James Gomez. “Ruben (Ibarra) pitched a great game, and their three pitchers all threw well. It was a great game for a 14-year-old Pony baseball game. That was fun.”
Ibarra went the distance for Watsonville and was solid from start to finish. He relinquished eight hits, one walk and the three earned runs. The Watsonville ace tallied 11 strikeouts on the day.
After Napa starter Anthony Cornwell gave up the two solo shots, it was the very definition of a pitchers duel and the three Napa pitchers did their best to try and match Ibarra’s performance.
Cornwell pitched three innings, before giving way to Jacob Ray who stumped the Watsonville hitters for three innings.
Napa was able to cut into the slim Watsonville lead in the fourth inning when Jake Macnichols sent an Ibarra fastball zooming over the fence for a towering homer. However, Ibarra shrugged it off and was able to get the next three outs with ease to keep the game at 2-1.
Both teams had chances to take over the game late. Watsonville’s came in the fifth inning. Matt Hermosillo was able to start the inning off with a single, and David Vasquez came in as a pinch runner for the first baseman. Michael Hammill was the next hitter and he laid down a perfect bunt down the first baseline to advance Vasquez to second, putting him in scoring position. Vasquez was eventually able to find his way over to third base to put the pressure on Ray, but the Napa reliever came through with two strikeouts to nullify the Watsonville scoring opportunity.
Napa had a shot at tying the game up in the sixth inning. Jared Horn was able to smack a pitch into center field where it just went under the glove of the hard-charging Watsonville centerfielder. Horn was able to stretch the hit out into a triple and in an instant Napa had changed the complexion of the game. Ibarra then hit Macnichols with a pitch to put runners on the corners, and he was able to make his way to second base to have the go-ahead run in scoring position.
Ibarra took his time and worked through the next two batters, calling for time after every few pitches, and, like he has before, he was able to wipe away the impending doom with two big strikeouts.
Watsonville had one more shot to add some insurance in the final inning before Ibarra took the mound to close it out, and for a second it looked like Jackson King-Collins had belted a home run off of Napa closer Horn, but the ball went foul by the slimmest of margins and Horn let go a sigh of relief. He continued his duties and notched three straight outs to set up his offense with a chance to win the game, and they delivered.
The game winning RBI came after a heart-pounding nine-pitch battle between Ibarra and Rasmusen, before the Napa hitter clutched the game and gave Watsonville its first loss of the tournament.
“It’s nothing to hang your head on,” said Gomez of the game. “We played a good baseball team, and we both played good. They just beat us at the end. That’s what the game of baseball is all about, is battling. You give it your best, if you get beat, you shake their hands and move on.”
That’s just what Watsonville will have to do now. After the opening loss they will face Bel Passi of Modesto today at 2:30 p.m. at Rosita Park in Los Altos.
“Now we have to make a long run out of the losers bracket, and now we just have to peck away. We have to swing the bat. We have enough pitching, so I’m not worried about that, but we have to swing the bat a little better and I think that’s what will happen tomorrow.”
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