Oakdale High’s Mark Ortiz took a pitch off his batting helmet, but it was East Union that felt the pain Thursday at Agostini Field.
Kody Simmons made it hurt.
He followed with an RBI double to right centerfield, and Oakdale prevailed 4-3 in the battle between the Valley Oak League’s 2011 co-champions.
“I was looking forward to that at-bat, actually,” Simmons said. “My approach was just to get a good pitch and drive it.”
Simmons himself was earlier hit by a pitch.
East Union hurler Jordan Kron struggled with his command early on, beaning three batters over the first two innings as the Mustangs (3-0, 11-1 overall) jumped out to a 3-0 lead. He eventually settled into a groove and cruised into the seventh inning, needing just 11 pitches to get through the third and fourth and another nine to get out of the sixth.
Kron continued to pound the strike zone after the Lancers (0-1, 5-4) erupted for three runs in the bottom of the sixth. He struck out Oakdale No. 9 hitter Justin Martin with the count full and worked ahead of Ortiz with no balls and two strikes. Then a high-inside pitch got away from Kron as the ball grazed off Ortiz’s helmet.
Ortiz went on to steal second. Simmons also went down 0-2 in the count before delivering the clutch hit.
“Looking at (an) 0-2 (count), we were just trying to change eye level and it ran in on him a little bit,” East Union coach Dan Triglia said. “We know their leadoff runner has good feet and has base-stealing ability. You don’t ever want a guy like that on base.”
Kron finished with four strikeouts in a four-hitter but walked one, hit four and allowed two runs to score with wild pitches.
“They took advantage of some opportunities when we helped them out, but Oakdale does a great job of that,” Triglia said. “They’re well coached and they play the game well. We have to be at our best to beat them.”
East Union had its chances to answer Oakdale’s early barrage but came up empty-handed despite getting the leadoff batters on base in the second, third and fifth innings.
In the second, Kron and Brock Swift both singled with no outs before Oakdale rolled a 4-6-3 double play. And though the Lancers went down in order in the fourth, they were a few feet away from plating their first run when No. 3 hitter Steven Gigli drilled a high fly ball to straightaway center but had the ball caught by Ortiz on the warning track.
East Union’s offense finally struck in the sixth with leadoff batter Alex Dias sparking the rally with a single to right. After John Olague walked, Gigli drove in Dias with an infield knock up the middle. Olague later stole second and strolled home thanks to an overthrow on the same play, and Swift drove in Gigli with a sacrifice fly to deep right.
“Against a quality team that has a good pitcher on the bump, you have to take advantage of your opportunities,” Triglia said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get hot until late.
“We felt like the momentum was going our way. We had a good chance of winning this game.”
Logan Handzlik fanned 11 and walked two in a four-hitter for Oakdale. After the Mustangs retook the lead in the seventh he dominated in the bottom half, hurling just eight pitches and striking out the final two batters to secure the victory.
The two-game set wraps up today in Oakdale.
East Union 3, Oakdale 0
Jake Danhoff struck out four in a complete-game shutout for the Squires, who opened VOL play on Thursday.
Brandon Ridgewell went 2 for 3 and drove in two runs, Lucas Garcia legged out a double and Jeremy Turner executed two sacrifice bunts and contributed an RBI.
Manteca 5, East Union 4
The Buffaloes (1-1, 6-2-1) managed to edge their crosstown rival despite being held to two hits, both rapped by Nick Lucchetti.
Ryan Matthews logged five innings from the mound for Manteca, striking out five and allowing three earned runs. Winning pitcher Ricky Flores tossed 1 1/3 innings in relief, and Ryan Harbeck got the final two outs for the save.
Oakdale 10, Manteca 5
Chase McKee had an RBI single and plated a run in the Buffaloes’ VOL opener Tuesday.