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Lancers can’t close the deal

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Lancers can’t close the deal

East Union pitcher Steven Gigli gets ready for a play at the plate as Oakdale's Kody Simmons slides home.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

POSTED April 16, 2010 2:38 a.m.
When Justin Dias narrowly missed a grand slam to tie things up in the bottom of the seventh, East Union got a timely single from Joe Modesto to send the game into extra innings. But a leadoff double from Oakdale High’s Kody Simmons in the top of the eighth would be the difference maker, as Oakdale plated a run and sneaked off with an 8-7 Valley Oak League win Thursday.

The Lancers (2-5 VOL, 7-10) would muster the strongest comeback of their season, scoring six runs in their final at-bat before recording an out, erasing a 7-1 deficit and taking the defending VOL champions to the limit in the two clubs’ final regular-season meeting.

“That seventh inning was just a great comeback,” East Union head coach Dan Triglia said. “We had started playing better in those last couple of innings. Early on, it looked like it was going to be a long game.

“We got our heads down a little bit, and I think we started wondering if we could compete.”

East Union did more than compete, stringing together a walk, a single, a double, and another two walks, before Dias changed the Lancers’ fate with one swing of the bat. The junior drove a Matt Butler pitch off the fence in right center, slicing Oakdale’s lead to one.

“I started the game not getting the hits that I wanted and then I went up there with runners in scoring position knowing that our team was down,” Dias said. “I told myself, ‘You’ve got to get this hit’.

“I saw the outside pitch and I’m not a hitter that goes the other way, but sometimes you have to do it.”

Dias’ triple ignited an East Union dugout and shifted the Mustangs into the realization that they were a few hits away from its first VOL loss since the season-opener.

Modesto’s single would send the Lancers into pandemonium, but three consecutive East Union outs would leave Modesto stranded and give Simmons an opportunity he would not let slip by.

East Union reliever Steven Gigli induced a pop-out and a picture-perfect ground ball to short after the leadoff double, but shortstop Brett Riley could not make the throw across the diamond after looking Simmons back to third.

Simmons’ impact was felt early and late, as the sophomore got things going in a hurry with a two-out grand slam in the bottom of the second inning. The slam came on the heels of a two-out error in which Oakdale promptly followed with a walk and then the homer.

Gigli was exceptional in relief, coming in with his Lancers trailing by six and not surrendering another run to the Mustangs until they scratched across the game winner.

“When coach told me I was in to pitch, I knew that it was my job to keep us in it,” Gigli said. “I don’t believe this ball club is ever out of a game, we have a chance to do what we did in the seventh every time.

“I just wanted to throw strikes and keep us in it in hopes that one inning we’d come back, and we did.”

Gigli got East Union on the board first, leading off the game with a homerun off Oakdale starter Tanner Combs. Dias got two hits in the contest, while Modesto got a pair and Jordan Kron tallied a single up the middle.

East Union is still looking to turn things around and make a late-season push to play quality baseball. Battling the defending league champs to an extra-inning affair will definitely build positive points in the Lancer locker room.

“They swung the sticks, got down and continued to play,” Oakdale head coach Hondo Arpoika said. “You have to tip your hat to them, they did a heck of a job.

“We’re happy to get the win, it’s never easy to get one here.”
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