Done in by errors, wild pitches and a terrific outing from Kimball lefty Tio Villalobos, Sierra suffered its first Valley Oak League loss in nearly three years in its season opener Tuesday, 10-0.
The Timberwolves’ last defeat in league came at the hands of Weston Ranch 4-3 on May 7, 2018. They had a perfect run through the VOL in Travis Thomson’s first year as head coach in 2019, and the 2020 campaign was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic before Sierra could begin its title defense.
While Kimball got to play two live contests against city rivals West and Tracy, Sierra had just one scrimmage last week to prepare for its opener and it showed.
“There’s probably some truth there, (but) we’re not going to use that as an excuse for anything and these players do a good job of being accountable,” Thomson said. “They just have to do some of the little things better. It will come with time, but for now we have more work to do.”
The Jaguars (1-2) capitalized on six total errors, including four that were supplemented by three walks and two wild pitches in their six-run outburst in the third inning. Dylan Anderson roped an RBI double during the rally.
Kimball scratched across its first run in the second, when Villalobos reached on an infield single and Justin Gilliam followed with a two-bag drive to deep right.
The mercy rule was put in play in the sixth when the Jags scored three unearned runs on two errors. Kimball was held to six hits but drew five walks while getting hit by three pitches. Brendan Rapisura pitched the first three innings, while Jakob Lopez took it the rest of the way for Sierra.
“It comes down to playing catch,” Thomson said. “It’s a simple game, and we didn’t do a good enough job of that for our pitchers. Lo-lo was outstanding. He came in and threw strikes, pitched to contact and did a good job for us.”
For Kimball, Villalobos cruised through his six-inning one-hitter, needing just 81 pitches. He finished with seven strikeouts, two walks and two hit batsmen.
“Villalobos’ fastball moves a little bit, it runs,” Thomson said. “And he pitched to his strengths. We were out in front and he stayed middle and away. Hats off to him for sticking to a plan and executing so well. It’s tough to hit against good pitchers, you have to be dialed in with a good approach. The VOL is not short on good pitchers.”
Senior catcher Jeremy Dalen was in the middle of his club’s few highlights. It was his double to right-center field that broke up Villalobos’ no-hit bid with two outs in the fourth. Defensively, he threw out 2 of 4 base stealers.
“I was just thinking ‘middle and away,’ because he was pitching everything outside,” Dalen said of his hit. “I was looking to hit oppo (opposite field) and there was a nice gap between the center fielder and right fielder. I was just thinking to square up and wait on it.”
The good news for Sierra is that it won’t have to wait to atone for the loss. The two-game series finale was moved from Thursday to today at Kimball.
“I have no doubt we’ll be better,” Thomson said. “We’ll get a good night sleep and tomorrow they’ll show that we’re not that team.”