WATSONVILLE — Watsonville Pony hadn’t been in a close game all tournament, so with Toro leading the game 3-0 in the bottom of the third they were easily out of their comfort zone.
But with just one strong hack Watsonville’s Ruben Ibarra changed the game, and Watsonville never looked back.
Ibarra belted a towering three-run home run in the bottom of the third to awaken the Watsonville Pony offense and help them take down Toro Pony for the West Zone NoCal Coast Region championship on Saturday afternoon in Watsonville.
“Ruben is a hitter,” said coach James Gomez. “He’s going to hit the ball. That’s what he does.”
Ibarra finished the day with three hits, none bigger than the deep-hit homer that got Watsonville on its feet. He also found himself on the mound to close the game out for the final two innings. He gave up just one hit, while striking out four Toro hitters in the two innings of work.
“I’ve coached him since he’s been young. He’s going to hit, but he’s not the only one. We have other good hitters in the lineup so you really can’t pitch around him. That’s the best thing we do, and if we continue to do that we’ll be okay.”
Ibarra also had help from Jack Harris, both with the bat and the mound. Harris tallied four hits, all singles, and finished with two RBIs to go along with his duties as starting pitcher. When his day was set and done, he pitched five total innings giving up three hits, three walks and only one earned run.
Harris started the game out by allowing a walk and was roughed up early by the middle of the Toro lineup in the second inning. Toro was able to load the bases, and a wild pitch scored the first run of the game. Harris was able to settle down with the bases loaded once again and strikeout two Toro hitters to get out of the inning and keep the score 1-0.
After a 1-2-3 inning from Watsonville, Toro was able to score two more runs in the top of the third inning to take their biggest lead of the game.
“It was just a slow start,” said Gomez. “We didn’t come out fired up right away. We hadn’t been in a tight game, so their coming out expecting it to just happen and their pitcher did a good job, he was pounding the zone early and keeping us off balance.”
But after the four-run inning from the hosts, it was all Watsonville.
Harris finished out his day by shutting down Toro’s hitters with two 1-2-3 innings, including three strikeouts. Harris came through with his bat as well by hitting an RBI single in the fifth inning to give Watsonville a two-run lead.
Ibarra then came into to finish out the game, and stymied any hope of a Toro comeback in the final two innings. Watsonville added two more runs in the sixth with one of them coming off of an error and the other from Harris’ second RBI of the day.
“The kids deserve it,” said Gomez. “They put some time in, they’re a good group of kids and they work hard together. It’s good for them and I hope we can continue to do this.”
Watsonville will now move on to the West Zone NoCal Super Region in Los Altos. Their first game will be Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Rosita Park against Napa.
“If they continue to play good,” said Gomez. “We’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
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