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Molina drives in 4 then shuts down Sierra
Sierras Ian Rodriguez makes contact during a loss against Atwater on Friday. - photo by JOHN-JOEL GRIFFITHS/The Bulletin

Despite Sierra giving undefeated Atwater a run for its money  Friday, the Timberwolves (1-2) weren’t able to shake a three-run deficit with just three outs to go despite putting two runners on with no one out.

Seniors Kyle Oden and Jake Pruitt opened the final inning by getting on base with a single and double, but after that Atwater head coach Jarrod Pimentel knew who to hand the ball to.

Pimentel inserted junior shortstop Derek Molina in for the close.

Molina was 3 of 4 with two triples, one run and four RBIs and came in to finish the game by recording three straight strikeouts to help Atwater (4-0) escape, 7-5.

“(Molina) is very gifted and one of those guys you get excited to watch,” Pimentel said. “But Sierra coach (Jack Thomson) always has a great squad. We played good, but they have a good ball club too – well-coached with good pitching and good hitters. They’re scary.”

Sierra’s returning second-team All-Valley Oak League player Jake Souza provided a go-ahead run that put the Timberwolves on top 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth.

Souza (1 of 3, walk, run, RBI) knocked in Ryan Vasquez, who got on base with a two-out-double prior to handing Sierra its first lead of the ball game.

Atwater went ahead 1-0 in the top of the first after Molina led off the game with a triple. His second triple was a three-RBI, bases-clearing knock in the top of the sixth that put Atwater in front, 6-4.

“It was a good effort,” Thomson said. “We played ball, but sometimes you have to do enough to win, and we didn’t do enough to win (Friday). We did enough to play the game, but not enough to win.”

Atwater did.

In the sixth inning, relief pitcher Tyler Moss (five strikeouts, six hits, three walks) got the first out and then walked two of the last three batters in Atwater’s lineup to load the bags.

Atwater’s No. 8 hitter Austin Conour even got on with a bunt-single, which was one of 12 total hits for the Falcons, which set the stage for Molina.

“He’s a player,” Thomson said. “You’re not going to walk a guy like that to start the game, and when he comes up with bases loaded there’s no place to put him either. What hurt us is we hit a guy prior to that and they laid down a bunt and I think we walked the No. 9 guy. So we shot ourselves in the foot and we set the table for (Molina). He’s an athlete and he made us pay.”

Oden (2 of 4, two runs) crossed the plate in the seventh on Molina’s wild pitch to make it 7-5.

Molina got Sierra senior third baseman Ian Rodriguez looking, and Vasquez and Souza both went down swinging after representing the potential game-tying runs in the final frame.

Sierra has seven returners back from last year, including its only returning first-team All-Leaguer in senior shortstop Dakota Conners (1 of 4, double). Catcher Jake Pruitt is also one of those returners, and like Conners, he’s a third-year varsity player. Pruitt finished 2 of 4 with a single and a double.

Vasquez got the start on the hill for Sierra and went three innings and tossed two strikeouts and gave up five hits. He also had a fielder’s-choice RBI that tied it at one in the bottom of the first and crossed the plate twice as he finished 1 of 2 with a double.

Moss went 1 of 3 and Jakub Gallagher and Blake Sundquist each tallied RBIs despite not having a hit.

Sierra will host Patterson on Tuesday at 4 p.m.