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Sierra’s Oden decides pitchers’ duel with GW hit

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Sierra shortstop Dakota Conners guns it to first base for an inning-ending double play in the fifth after getting the force out on East Union’s Joseph Souza.

Photos by SEAN KAHLER/

POSTED April 9, 2014 12:53 a.m.

Sierra pitcher Kyle Oden admitted he didn’t have his best stuff working for him in Tuesday’s crosstown clash with visiting East Union, but he more than made up for it with the bat.

The senior lefty finished 4 for 4 at the plate and drove in the deciding run in a 2-1 win for Sierra.

He came through with two away in the bottom of the sixth after Ryan Vasquez was hit by a two-strike pitch. Oden swung at reliever Kyle Emerson’s 1-0 offering and sent it to right with a soft single.

From the mound, Oden struck out six, walked four and allowed two hits in six innings of work, but he also had two errors on pickoff throws — one of which led to East Union’s lone run in the opening frame.

Vasquez faced five batters in the seventh and earned the save, firing a clutch strikeout with two on and one out in the process.

“It was a tough game for me,” Oden said. “I wasn’t as focused as I normally am and I didn’t have my stuff like I normally do. Just an off day, I guess.

“I had a good feeling about today hitting-wise. I’ve been working at it and it’s paying off finally.”

That’s 11 straight victories for the Timberwolves, who are 4-0 in the Valley Oak League and 11-2 overall. East Union (2-3, 3-11), meanwhile, continues to battle through some hard luck, as it fell to 1-5 in games decided by one run.

Sierra has been spot-on defensively during its win streak but committed five errors Tuesday. Offensively, the Timberwolves come in averaging 10.5 runs per game but were handcuffed by sophomore Marco Gonzales. Sierra left nine runners stranded, including three in the fifth inning when it failed to score despite loading the bases with one out.

The Timberwolves were not without some stellar moments defensively, however. Standout shortstop Dakota Conners turned two double plays, and catcher Jake Pruitt caught a base runner stealing third and picked off another at first for a strikeout-throwout double play.

“We weren’t as sharp as we had been and we were fortunate to get out of here today with a win,” Sierra coach Jack Thomson said. “It’s like we told the kids, when we play East Union and Manteca you throw records out the window. They’re always going to bring their ‘A’ game against us, and East Union brought their ‘A’ game today.”

Sierra’s rare struggles were foreshadowed early on.

Andrew Ruiz singled for East Union and moved to second on Jacob Danhoff’s two-out walk. That was when Oden threw it away when trying to pick off Ruiz, who then scooted home when the throw to third was well off target.

In the bottom half, Vasquez (walked) and Oden (infield single) reached in succession, but Gonzales induced three straight flyouts to get out of it.

“We hit a lot of balls hard today just right at people,” Oden said. “Dakota went 0 for 3 but hit three hard line drives straight to outfielders. It was just one of those days, but the pitcher did a good job of keeping us off balance.”

Gonzales threw 116 pitches in five innings and was at his best when Sierra threatened to bust it open. His only glaring miscue was a balk that allowed Ian Rodriguez to score from third in the fourth inning. Rodriguez crushed a two-out double before plating the equalizer. It was nearly a home run for Rodriguez, but East Union outfielder Brandon Ridgewell almost made a sensational grab as he leaped to keep it in the yard but dropped it while colliding with the fence.

In the fifth, Oden led off with a single to left, Jake Pruitt beat out a throw for an infield single and Jake Souza’s bunt single loaded the bases with one out. Gonzales rung up two straight strikeouts on just seven pitches to escape with the score still locked at 1-1.

He finished with eight strikeouts while yielding six hits and four walks.

“To do what he did as a sophomore in a crosstown game is huge,” East Union coach Dan Triglia said. “He was a competitor and tenacious on the mound today. We were very aware of their ability to hit the ball and score runs. That concerned us and he just did a fabulous job of keeping them off balance. We’re really pleased with his performance and we expect for him to get better as the season goes on.”


East Union 9, Sierra 8

Lucas Diaz was 2 for 3 with a double and was the winning pitcher for East Union.

Devin Abrew and Jack Wever both reach in all four of their plate appearances and went 1 for 1. Bailey Simons pitched the seventh inning in relief.

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