WATSONVILLE — With his team trailing 2-1 going into the fourth inning, Watsonville Pony Manager James Gomez brought his kids in close and told them to not let the frustration set in, and to stay focused on the goal.
They took his words to heart.
Watsonville Pony’s offense exploded for 10 runs in the final four innings against Monterey Pony, and walked away with an 11-2 win to remain unbeaten and earn a spot in the NorCal Coast Region championship on Thursday in Watsonville.
“We just needed to stay focused and continue to hit the ball hard,” said Gomez. “That’s what they did. We just stayed focused and we knew what we had to do.”
Coming into Thursday’s game Watsonville had 10-run ruled both Santa Cruz and Mid-County. Even though it took them longer than usual, their offense once agains was on fire.
“The kids put a lot of hard work in,” said Gomez. “Offense is the real strong side of our team, and the kids hit the ball well.”
The pitching wasn’t bad either.
Starting pitcher James Gomez Jr. threw four complete innings giving up five hits, three walks and two earned runs, along with tallying six strikeouts before giving way to Manny Rivas. Rivas started his day by giving up a single, but after that he was almost unhittable. In three innings work he struck out five Monterey batters and gave up only two hits.
“He (Rivas) has been doing that each game,” said Gomez. “Coming in and closing it out. He has a nice curveball, and sneaks his fastball in. He’s been a good closer for us right now.”
But early on Watsonville’s problem was getting guys on base.
Monterey struck first in the second inning off of a bases-loaded two-run double to take the 2-0 lead. Gomez Jr. was able to work his way out of the inning by getting the final out via a groundout to keep two Monterey players on base.
Watsonville was able to score a run of it’s own in the following inning. Rex Gomez made his way over to second base after getting on base off a Monterey error, and a Monterey pitcher balk. He was then brought home when James Gomez made it safely to first off of a dropped strikeout. Rex rushed around third and easily crossed first to make it a one-run game.
Gomez Jr. was able to get three straight outs in the bottom of the third, and from that point out it was all Watsonville.
Jackson King-Collins was able to earn a walk and he followed it up by stealing second base. Rex Gomez then hit the first Watsonville RBI of the day with a line drive to the gap in left center field to bring home King-Collins and tie the game at two. Gomez Jr. smacked a single of his own to send Gomez home and take the one run lead. Ruben Ibarra then blasted a hopper that got by the short stop to score Gomez Jr. and make the score 4-2.
Monterey’s best chance to score some runs and stay in the game came in the next inning when Gomez Jr. was in a bases loaded situation with only one out, but he didn’t fold and he struck out the next two Monterey hitters to get out of the inning unscathed.
Watsonville’s powerful offense, and solid pitching sealed the game in the following inning. They scored three runs to make the game 7-2. A King-Collins sacrifice fly scored the first run of the inning. Then Jake Keaschall scored off a Monterey error and a Gomez Jr. RBI single plated Michael Hammill for the third and final run of the inning.
They added two more runs in both of the final innings, and Rivas stonewalled the Monterey hitters for the 11-2 win.
Watsonville will now look forward to the championship game that will be today at 12 p.m. in Watsonville. They will need to win just one game to win the Coast Region championship and move on to the Super Regionals in Los Altos.
“It’s been 10-run rule, 10-run rule and now you win by nine,” said Gomez. “It’s hard to do that and stay focused. So the hardest thing as coaches is keeping your guys focused, but with are one and two pitcher not having throw, I think we’re in a good spot going into Saturday.”
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