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Pitching powers Cougars win
THURS ranch
Weston Ranchs Larry Martinez slides into third as the ball is off target to Lathrops Johnny McCuiag on Wednesday in an 11-1 win for the host Cougars. - photo by DAVE CAMPBELL/The Bulletin

Stellar Weston Ranch pitching coupled with sub-par Lathrop defense led to an 11-1 five-inning Cougars win in the Valley Oak League baseball opener Wednesday for both teams at Weston Ranch High School.  

“Any time you come out in league and play a quality team – Lathrop is a good team and they are coached well by Randy (Baltazar) – you have to do the things we did early on in the game to be successful,” Weston Ranch coach Dave Hager said. “That is take the extra 90, take care of the baseball and throw strikes.”

The Cougars scored in every inning but the fourth and ended the game via the 10-run mercy rule in the bottom of the fifth when C.J. Drain came home from third on a wild pitch. Drain had the big bat for Weston Ranch (1-0 VOL, 12-1 overall), reaching base four times with a 3-for-4 outing with a double, triple, two runs and an RBI. Drain also reached on an error. 

“I have been struggling  at the plate the past couple of games,” Drain said. “So my dad and I have been working on it.

“I am just doing everything I can to get better and it worked today.”

Amier Bowen was 2 for 2 with two runs and a walk for the Cougars. Teammate Larry Martinez was 2 for 3 with a pair of RBI, two runs and he also reached on an error. Jordan Severin doubled and scored for Weston Ranch.

“It felt good swinging the bat today,” Bowen said. “The bats were working for everybody.”

Manuel Rubio pitched four no-hit shutout innings for the Cougars, retiring the first eight batters he faced and striking out four.

“In warmups I wasn’t really getting my off-speed good,” Rubio said. “But once the game started I was able to get caught up.”

Rubio left the game in the fifth and that is when the Spartans (0-1, 3-4-2) scored. Jordan Sharifejad led off the frame with a walk and went to third on a double by Anthony Blasé. Sharifnejad scored on a two out error off the bat of Keenan Donatelli, 

“The bottom line is you have to play catch,” Lathrop coach Randy Baltazar said. “(Starting pitcher) Santi (Kantun) did a good job of pitching to contact and found himself in a little trouble. Maybe he could have got himself out of it if we played catch. They were able to put the ball in play and scored at least six runs off of four errors. It is the bottom line of playing catch.

“Rubio did a good job of finding his rhythm. I don’t think he had his best stuff but he was able to disrupt our timing a little bit and they made their routing plays while we didn’t.”