Unlikely heroes emerged from the bottom of East Union’s lineup in its 7-1 victory over visiting Lathrop Tuesday.
Sophomore Joe Souza led off rallies with walks in the third and fifth innings, was bunted to second base by No. 9 batter Trevor Huntoon on both occasions and plated a run in each opportunity. Fellow sophomore Lucas Garcia (2 for 3), batting from the seventh spot, drilled the biggest hit of the contest — a bases-clearing double during the Lancers’ six-run onslaught in the fifth.
East Union coach Dan Triglia credited Huntoon for igniting the offense in a rare start even though he didn’t get to swing his bat. After his two sacrifice bunts, he was hit by a pitch in his third plate appearance. It likely won’t be his last, not after the way his execution of the little things made a big impact.
Small ball was the difference in this must-have affair for both clubs. Simply put, East Union executed, and Lathrop did not.
“Trevor got an opportunity today. We asked him to play a little small ball and he executed both times that we asked him to do it. That was huge for us just to get us going,” said Triglia, whose club improved to 2-3 in the Valley Oak League and 8-8 overall.
“We haven’t been executing small ball in recent games and it hurt us. We focused on that and he did a good job of getting the ball down and moving guys up 90 feet and we got runs out of it every time.”
The bottom of the lineup was instrumental in giving pitcher Jordan Kron some breathing room in his two-hit effort. Lathrop had at least two base runners reach in the first four innings before Kron took control under gusty conditions.
He struck out the side in order in the top of the fifth, setting the table for the offensive explosion in the bottom half of the frame. He then worked a quick sixth, forcing three straight grounders before striking out two of the four batters he faced in the seventh. Kron would have been perfect over the final three innings if not for a harmless infield error in the seventh. He finished with seven strikeouts, a walk and a hit batter.
“Pitching in winds like this is never easy, you get cold real fast,” Kron said. “I was in there kind of cruising the first couple of innings to make sure everything was working and I wanted to really turn it up the last three innings.”
Lathrop (2-3, 6-8) missed opportunities to break the ice in the first three innings. This is where the Spartans lost the small-ball battle. They had leadoff runners reach in each inning but twice hit into double plays in the first and third.
“When you have a guy like Kron pitching, you know he’s going to be around the plate and he’s going to deal, we just gotta make sure that our bats match theirs and we didn’t,” Lathrop coach Randy Baltazar said. “When we had our leadoff guy on the first three innings we failed to execute. When they rolled that nice double play (in the first) that took the wind out of our sails.”
Costly errors took Spartans out of the game completely. Two miscues behind starting pitcher Austin Plunk led to six unearned runs. The second error came with two outs in the bottom of the fifth and led to the first two of EU’s five runs in the barrage. Plunk was otherwise rock solid from the mound, allowing four hits and an earned run with four strikeouts and four walks in five innings.
Plunk plated Lathrop’s lone run in the fourth on freshman Keenan Donatelli’s single to right.
“I thought Austin did a great job of getting outs, keeping them off balanced, but when we made that error the wheels just kind of fell off,” Baltazar said. “They were able to get some timely hits after that and it hurt us.”
Lathrop will get another shot at EU Thursday at its home diamond. Tuesday’s win was much-needed for East Union after it dropped two well-contested decisions to rival Manteca last week. Meanwhile, Lathrop was riding the momentum from its surprising two-game sweep of contending Sonora.
“Lathrop came in with a lot of confidence and rightfully so,” Triglia said. “We were coming off a tough week with Manteca, so we knew that if we don’t play good baseball they were going to beat us. We’re going to have to be ready to play on Thursday.”
East Union 14, Lathrop 0
Kyle Emerson was a perfect 3 for 3 with two RBIs and was nearly perfect in his five-inning no-hitter from the pitcher’s mound. He struck out seven batters but walked three.
Gabe Chavez (2 for 4) and Todd Parcells each drove in a pair of runs.