Sierra appeared ready to finally bust out against Rafa Lara and visiting McNair in a nonleague contest Thursday, loading the bases with no out in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Lara was able to induce a comebacker, leading to a double play.
For a moment, it was a continuation of a frustrating trend for the Timberwolves, who struggled to get big hits in key situations while dropping their previous three contests.
Then Jaden Pina and the bottom third of the lineup came through. He delivered a two-run double deep right-center field to break a scoreless tie, and Sierra surged to a much-needed 9-0 win.
“Just a good job of picking somebody up,” Sierra coach Jack Thomson said. “It looked like a big inning and all of the sudden we might not get anything. That would have been a downer not to have scored there.”
Pina’s approach was to be aggressive. Lara was virtually untouchable through the first three innings, throwing just 39 pitches while striking out the side in order in the second. He wound up throwing 33 pitches in Sierra’s four-run fourth and was replaced by Nick Prum.
“We had to jump on the first one we see, because you never know if you’re going to get a better pitch,” Pina said. “I went up there looking to swing. Unfortunately, I missed the first one, but I got the second one.”
Jared Bagley followed with a single, and Diego Duarte and David Reyes kept the two-out rally alive with back-to-back RBI knocks.
The Timberwolves (5-4) batted around the lineup again in the fifth for four more runs, getting an RBI double from Jacob Peterson (2 for 4, two runs). It was he who loaded the bases in the fourth, turning a perfectly-executed sacrifice bunt into an infield hit.
Pina and Duarte each finished 2 for 3 with a walk. Jesse Babauta walked twice and scored twice while clubbing a double in the first inning.
Babauta was one of four Sierra pitchers used. He locked down the win after striking out five in three perfect innings in relief.
“I felt like I was in a zone,” Babauta said. “Whatever (Pina, who started at catcher) called I was able to throw it where he wanted it and I threw strikes, that was the main thing.”
Peterson (three hits, walk, three strikeouts) got the starting nod and logged two innings. Hunter Frisk gave up a hit — a double to No. 3 hitter Albert Garibaldi (2 for 3) — but faced just four batters in the sixth, and Pina fanned three in a perfect seventh.
The pitching quartet combined for a four-hitter. McNair (2-6) had its best opportunity to score in the second inning when it had two runners on with one out, but Peterson got out of the jam with a strikeout and a popup.
Sierra begins Valley Oak League play next Tuesday when it welcomes Central Catholic. The Timberwolves hope their challenging nonleague schedule — which includes one-run losses to Escalon (9-1) and Gregori (7-0) — has them ready.
“We’re young, I have 14 juniors, and we’re getting better,” Thomson said. “League is going to be tough, so we’re trying to develop some other pitchers. JP and Jesse are good, but we’ve got to find somebody after that. We can’t expect to get complete games from them every time out. Hopefully today re-energizes us a little bit and we’re ready to go next week.”