Sierra took its first loss in the Travis Thomson Era on Wednesday.
The school’s second varsity baseball coach — who succeeded Jack Thomson, his dad and winner of 600-plus career games — is thankful for the teaching moments that defending Central California Conference tri-champion Buhach Colony helped provide.
The Thunder were a notch better in every facet of this non-league affair, using four pitchers for a combined two-hitter in the 4-0 victory.
“The kids can learn a lot from a loss and that’s why we try and schedule a team like Buhach every year — they make us better,” Travis Thomson said. “Our kids are not down from this. They’re smart kids. Just a bump on the road.”
On the Timberwolves’ bump were four terrific pitchers who threw them off balance with their differing styles. Starter Jake Sapien, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound sophomore, struck out the first two batters he faced and finished with four strikeouts and three walks over three innings.
He was relieved by left-handed Antonio Cortez (two innings), who was then followed by sophomore Kadon Floro (1.2 innings) and Alex Kendrick. The Floro name is prominent at the Atwater school. Kadon’s older brothers Dylan and Brock previously starred at Buhach Colony.
The Thunder’s pitching quartet rung up eight strikeouts in all.
“We haven’t seen velocity like that yet,” Sierra’s Joseph Lomeli said. “The first guy had a weird arm slot and threw hard, then the second guy comes in with a change of speeds, a good cutter and a good curveball. All-around they had good pitching and we were frozen at the plate today.”
Lomeli did deliver one of the few big hits of the game, and his double to left nearly tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth inning. Julian Cantu led off and reached on an infield error.
He was signaled to run home on Lomeli’s deep drive as left fielder Nathan Farrar collected the ball and hit cutoff man Dhelahn Tilghman, Buhach’s impressive shortstop. Cantu was thrown out at the plate.
“We were a little aggressive there,” Thomson said. “We like to put pressure, especially early. Left fielder dove for it and had to get up. They were going to have to make two perfect throws to get us out and unfortunately, they did. A good team does that. That’s why they’re good, they make plays.”
Tyler Kiser belted a two-out single up the middle in the seventh inning for Sierra’s other hit. The Timberwolves were able to get four leadoff batters on base on walks but could not capitalize.
Buhach Colony, on the other hand, took advantage of its chances while making plays on defense. Tilghman drilled a one-out triple that caromed off the right-field fence in the third inning.
Sierra pitcher Slyder Blyth (six innings, seven hits, walk, three strikeouts) induced a pop fly for the second out and appeared to wriggle out of the jam when he got No. 3 batter Ruben Garcia to hit a chopper to third. The ball was mishandled by a Sierra infielder, allowing Tilghman to score.
Tilghman plated the second run in the fifth inning and finished 3 for 3 with a walk from the leadoff spot. On first base with two away, the speedy senior was caught in a rundown after a pickoff throw from Blyth. Tilghman and the Thunder caught a break as an infielder bobbled the ball during the rundown and allowed the runner to safely made it back to first base
The miscue wound up hurting the Timberwolves, as Garcia crushed an RBI double to left.
Buhach plated two more in the sixth. Sapien scored on a passed ball, and Tilghman drove in Brendan Ekizian with a perfect squeeze bunt.
“In a game like this, runs are at a premium and mistakes can cost us,” Thomson said. “Today, they did. They don’t score those first couple of runs if we execute. Other than that, we kept up with them. We make one more play and it’s a 0-0 game going into the sixth.”
Sierra 2, Buhach Colony 0
Zach Fonseca was 2 for 2 with an RBI triple for the host Timberwolves and he struck out seven, walking only one.
Sonny Elder added an RBI triple for the Timberwolves and Brendan Rapisura picked up the save.