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Seventh-inning HR puts EU’s postseason chances in jeopardy

Dean makes up for missed signal with heroic blast

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Seventh-inning HR puts EU’s postseason chances in jeopardy

East Union's Johnathan Shepherd can't suppress a smile after a game-tying home run in the fourth inning against visiting Sonora Tuesday.

JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin


POSTED April 22, 2009 4:11 a.m.
East Union’s playoff chances may very well hinge on a costly mistake from a Sonora player.

And it was costly for East Union.

With the visiting Wildcats down a run in the top of the seventh at EU’s Agostini Field Tuesday, Tucker Dean was supposed to put Manuel Espino, who led off with a four-pitch walk, in scoring position with a bunt.

Dean missed the signal from his coach, Scott Johnson, but he didn’t miss Frank Bailey’s 1-0 delivery.

Dean’s go-ahead homer to left ignited Sonora’s four-run rally in the final frame, as the Wildcats stunned East Union 6-3 while stealing the front end of a pivotal home-and-away series.

“It went from something going wrong to something going right,” East Union coach Dan Triglia said.

Johnson forgave Dean, who finished 2 for 4 with three RBIs and two runs, for not paying attention.

“Sometimes you just have to roll with those things,” he said.

With five games left in the Valley Oak League, the Lancers (4-5, 9-8) will likely have to win out to make a second straight appearance in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs. With only two postseason berths allotted to the VOL this year, EU’s chances shrunk with Tuesday’s loss.

Sonora is now 6-3 (11-8 overall) and moved to within a game of second-place Sierra, which fell to league-leading Oakdale 12-1.

“We wanted it and we needed it,” Triglia said. “Now this puts them two (games) ahead of us, so we just need to come out, play baseball and see what happens. If we win today, destiny is still in our hands.

“But now we have to get a lot of help from a lot of people. What it’s about right now for us is figuring out a way to go up to their place Thursday and win a game.”

Bailey pitched valiantly despite the home run. He preserved EU’s 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth with a gutsy curveball that went for a full-count strike on his 100th pitch of the game. It was the third out of the inning, when Sonora threatened to at least tie it with runners on second and third.

Bailey was relieved by ace Marshall Swift after giving up the deciding homer in the seventh. Sonora reliever Dan Molieri, who shut the door with two big strikeouts to end it, threw three scoreless innings for the win.

“He pitched a heck of a game,” Johnson said of Bailey. “In this heat and this humidity, to go as long as he did was impressive. My hat goes off to him.”

East Union had a chance pad its lead going into the seventh when Ryan Sage walked and Johnathan Shepherd reached on a bunt single with no outs in the bottom of the sixth, but Molieri snuck away with no damage done with two groundouts and a diving catch in right field by Espino.

“That was critical right there,” Triglia said. “You want to get those tack-on runs when you can, and I think that gave them a little bit of life.”

Espino, Sonora’s starting pitcher, was 2 for 2 with a double and two runs from the bottom of the order. Steven Weddington hit 2 for 4 with a double and a fifth-inning home run. Shepherd also hit one out in the fourth to go 2 for 3.
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