Zion Bell envisioned himself making solid contact, finding a hole through the infield and settling into first base as he led off the bottom of the fourth inning for Sierra on Wednesday.
“I was just planning on making the defense work, not to do anything too big,” the Sierra sophomore said.
With his team locked in a pitcher’s duel against visiting Kimball, Bell delivered two game-breaking blows in the inning, and the first-place Timberwolves rolled 11-1 in Game 1 of this pivotal Valley Oak League series.
“I was glad that I was able to come through and help set the tone for my team,” Bell said.
He swung at the first pitch in the home half of the fourth and sent it to the right-centerfield gap for a double. Bell then advanced twice on wild pitches for the first run of the game — the first of 10 in the inning alone.
On his second at-bat of the frame, Bell bashed a three-run homer to right on an 0-2 pitch. Jessie Ortiz-Martinez also slugged a three-run jack, Tyler Kiser drove in two with a triple and Deshon Thomas — who finished 3 for 3 — capped the assault with an RBI double.
“We thought it was going to be another one-run Wednesday battle,” Sierra coach Travis Thomson said. “And the best part is, we scored the one run and it was like a new inning. Nobody on, and we get a hit, and a hit and a hit. Our kids kept pushing. Three runs wasn’t enough for them and then six runs wasn’t enough. Zion’s home run changed the game, because six runs isn’t safe in the VOL.”
Junior pitcher Jon Sarmiento and Kimball (3-2 VOL, 10-4 overall) had chances to prevent further damage. Joseph Lomelli drew a full-count walk after Bell’s double, and Slyder Blyth reached on an error on a sacrifice bunt.
Thomas hit a single to load the bases — for a moment. Blyth was thrown out after overrunning second base. Then Tyler Kiser failed to get bunts down to fall behind in the count 0-2.
Two pitches later, he hammered the two-run triple to right. Kimball outfielder Rubin Zamora did well to run down the deep fly but could not make the catch as he crashed into the fence.
“Tyler picks himself up after not getting the bunt down,” Thomson said. “He made me look silly for making him bunt and he hits a triple.
“We could have had the bases loaded with no outs, but to be honest the base running (mistake) was on me because I didn’t stop Slyder soon enough. Luckily, the team picked me up, too.”
Jason Silva was thankful to be pitching with such a large lead, which hasn’t happened in previous starts. The junior southpaw pitched all six innings in the mercy-shortened affair, firing eight strikeouts, walking two and beaning one in a three-hitter. His first two starts in VOL play included several tense moments in hard-earned road wins against Central Catholic and Oakdale.
“I had to start warming up because we kept scoring and scoring more runs,” Silva said. “It’s nice going back out there with a 10-run lead. It was awesome.”
Sarmiento had given up just one hit before Sierra’s backbreaking rally. He only got one out in the fourth. Iseal Velazquez and Giovanni Bonardi also pitched in the inning.
Sierra (5-0, 13-3-1) could have ended it sooner. Kimball No. 9 hitter Kyle Gibson reached on an infield single to start the fifth inning and thwarted the shutout by scoring on a wild pitch.
The Timberwolves expect Kimball’s effort Friday in Tracy as returning all-league pitcher Gabe Cortinas takes the hill for the Jaguars.
“They have a dude coming Friday,” Thomson said. “This (win) is huge knowing that Cortinas is coming on Friday. There was a lot of pressure going into this game and the guys got it done in six innings.”
Sierra 3, Kimball 2
Zach Fonseca went 2 for 2 and belted a two-RBI triple, while Sonny Elder struck out six and scattered two hits over six innings to lead the Timberwolves (1-3, 8-5) to their first league win of the season.
Jakob Lopez finished 2 for 3 with a double.