A varsity athlete since his freshman year, Dylan Lee is no stranger to pressure situations.
The multi-sport standout helped East Union wriggle out of one Thursday for a much-needed win at Agostini Field. Lee halted Oakdale’s late comeback attempt and retired all five batters he faced for the save. He also sparked the Lancers’ back-breaking four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth, as they raced to a 14-7 victory.
East Union (1-1 Valley Oak League, 5-6 overall) led by as much as seven runs, but the visiting Mustangs (3-1, 7-5) rallied for three in the fifth and two in the sixth to close in, 10-7. Oakdale had two runners on base with one out when Lee replaced A.J. Vasquez on the mound.
Lee got out of it with a strikeout and a groundout to second. He threw just nine pitches to get past Oakdale’s Nos. 2-3-4 hitters, striking out one and inducing groundball outs to second and third for the final two outs.
“I knew my teammates have my back, I just had to throw strikes,” Lee said. “I knew they’d be there to make plays if there were ground balls and that’s what happened. I just came in confident that they have my back.”
The junior pitcher gave himself some breathing room in the bottom of the sixth. He led off with a sharply-struck single down the third-base line and scored on a wild pitch. Jacob Toste and Mateo Guevara (2 for 3, two walks, two RBIs) later drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks.
East Union snapped frustrating three-game losing skid in which they lost each by a run in the seventh or eighth innings. The Lancers led going into the bottom of the seventh at Oakdale on Tuesday but lost, 5-4.
“We really needed this, especially after the heartbreak on Tuesday,” Vasquez said. “It really left a stinger in our system, but we just had to come out here and be ready to play. We knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
It wasn’t a pretty win, as both teams struggled with defensive and pitching miscues. They combined to walk 15 batters and hit four. East Union went through four pitchers, while Oakdale used three.
Sophomore lefty Zach Grabowski had a solid 3 1/3-inning start but did not get the decision. He struck out four before running into control issues.
“Both teams were a little sloppy, but we outlasted the in the end,” East Union coach Kris Hensley said. “Anytime you can get a win over Oakdale, no matter how you can get it, you take it and you’re happy.
“They’re never going to feel that they’re out of a game, and of course they scratched and clawed their way back into the game the way you would expect an Oakdale team to do. But our guys showed some resiliency and persevered. They kept fighting and did just enough.”
Hensley was glad to see the offense break through. Thursday marked the first time this season that the team plated at least 10 runs. Evan Jeffery (run, RBI) and Vasquez (double, two RBIs, two runs) each went 3 for 3. John Perazzo went 2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs.
Nate Criswell finished 3 for 4 with an RBI for Oakdale.
The Lancers created separation with a seven-run onslaught in the third, giving them an 8-1 lead. They hope to keep the bats burning for their next two-game set against rival Manteca.
“We had a lot of good, quality at-bats, not a lot of chasing,” Hensley said. “When they got pitches to hit, for the most part we hit them. We’re going to have to build on that heading into Manteca with the pitching staff they got. We’re going to have to battle against another well-coached team. The VOL is tough. You can’t take a week off.”