WATSONVILLE — Tuesday’s game between the St. Francis Central Coast Catholic Sharks and the Scotts Valley Falcons will go down as one of the all-time classics.
It will also go down as the first loss in Santa Cruz Coastal League play for the Sharks (18-6, 9-1) who are still a game ahead of the Falcons (15-8, 7-2) and the Soquel Knights (10-10-2, 7-2).
The matchup between the Sharks and Falcons had everything that you could possibly want from a battle between two powerhouse teams. It had some dominating pitching, a little bit of small ball and pinch of explosive offense.
The dominating pitching came from Dillon Houser, if only for a few innings, before the Falcons took over in the fourth inning and jumped out to a 2-1 lead.
He had a no-hitter going through the first two innings of the game on 31 pitches. The Fresno State bound senior started the game and pitched five innings giving up just three hits, three runs and striking out four hitters.
He was replaced by Jack Peoples, who finished out the game on 84 pitches in three innings giving up four runs, all of them earned.
Peoples was thrown into the game in the sixth inning with a 3-1 deficit and he dug the Sharks into a deeper hole by giving up two more runs in his first inning of work.
After allowing three straight hits to the first three batters he faced, Abe Alvarez knocked in Cruz Machado and Riley Hilton to stretch out the Falcon’s cushion.
Just when it looked like the Falcons were going to run away with the win, the explosive offense showed up for the Sharks.
Calvin Anderson-Nakagawa stepped up to the plate and belted a deep home run past the right field fence to start off the Shark’s sixth inning.
David “Digger” Gugale continued the hot streak with a triple and then Dillon Houser brought in Gugale to cut the lead down to just two runs. Jacob Cardona tacked on another run by bringing in Houser with an RBI single to put the pressure back onto the Falcons.
Scotts Valley gave themselves the some breathing room by bringing in a run in the seventh, but there was still hope with the top of the lineup on deck for the Sharks.
Sahid Valenzuela led off the inning with a double to keep the Sharks alive. Jonathan Carmona then struck out and Anderson-Nakagawa hit a routine ground ball for the second out of the inning. The game seemed to be out of reach and Anderson-Nakagawa unleashed his frustration on the bench in the Shark’s dugout with a swift punch.
Guagle then stepped up to the plate with all the pressure on shoulders, and he delivered.
He boomed a deep and high shot into left field that easily cleared the fence for the game tying two-run blast. It was Gugale’s fifth home run of the season.
In a matter of two innings the Sharks had scored five runs and forced the game to go into extra innings.
Peoples started off the inning by getting Sean Varenkamp to line out to right field for the first out. Then he began to struggle and he walked the next two Falcons. Garrett Johnston was the hero for Scotts Valley with a sacrifice fly for the go-ahead run that would also be the game-winning run.
The Sharks did have a chance to score, but there were no prayers answered this time and the Falcons handed St. Francis their first loss in league play.
Gugale finished the game 2-4 with three RBIs, two runs and home run. Anderson-Nakagawa went 2-3 with a double, an RBI, a run and a home run.
St. Francis will get a quick break from SCCAL play as they will travel to William C. Overfelt from San Jose on Friday.
They still control their own destiny as they have two SCCAL games remaining the first coming against the Mariners on Tuesday at Aptos.
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