After starting the season ranked among the top 25 teams in the country, the Bishop Amat (La Puente, Calif.)
Lancers lost their first two games of the season and have been unable to crack back into the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Baseball Rankings
But that could all change following Bishop Amat's convincing 11-3 win over St. Francis (Mountain View, Calif.)
in the second round of the Hard 9 National Classic at El Dorado (Placentia, Calif.) Tuesday.
"We kind of shot ourselves in the foot early in the season," said Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto. "We know that's a good team over there. St. Francis is going to be playing for a section championship later this year just like we hope we will be playing for a section championship. Some times in a game like this, it's the simple plays that make a difference. We were able to take advantage of some of the errors they made and we had some really good at-bats today."
Errors were a big part of the problem for St. Francis, which entered the game ranked No. 2 in the nation by the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings. The Lancers opened the tournament with a 13-3 win over Notre Dame Prep and had a 20-1 overall record.
But the Lancers committed three errors on the day, leading to four runs. The Lancers also had a tough time keeping the bottom part of the Bishop Amat lineup off the basepaths, especially No. 8 hitter Wallace Gonzalez
At 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, Gonzalez doesn't look like your typical No. 8 hitter. Nicknamed "Shorty" by his teammates, the ruggedly built senior looks like a future NFL defensive end. Against St. Francis, Gonzalez looked like a future Major League Baseball prospect. Gonzalez went 4-for-4 in the contest and drove in six runs with three singles and a towering home run.
"On a team like ours, we are going to have a different hero every game," said Nieto. "Today was Wallace's day to be the hero."
Gonzalez noted that his performance against St. Francis might not be typical, but he's hopeful it's a sign of things to come.
"I started off the season kind of slow, but things have been getting better," he said. "I don't see a lot of fastballs, so when I do see one, I have to be ready. They were throwing me fastballs today and I took advantage."
The win gives Bishop Amat 18 straight wins (18-2) since opening the season with back-to-back losses to Palm Desert, last year's Southern Section Division IV champion, and Esperanza, one of the National Classic host teams.
Amat opened the scoring with a single run in the second inning when Jay Anderson
walked, went to third on a failed pickoff attempt by pitcher Colin Reed, and then scored on Dominique Davis'
Things began to fall apart for St. Francis in the third. Adam Alcantara
was hit by a pitch, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. He then came home on David Higuera's
groundout to shortstop. After Rio Ruiz
flew out to centerfield, it looked like St. Francis might get out of the inning relatively unscathed.Bernardo Zavala
kept the rally alive for Bishop Amat with a base hit and James Serrato followed with a base hit to centerfield. An error by the St. Francis centerfielder on the throw to third to get Zavala went out of play, allowing Zavala to score and putting Serrato on third. Following a walk to Anderson, Davis doubled to plate Serrato.
Gonzalez came up with his first big hit of the game blasting a two-run single to left field. The throw from the outfield appeared to be in time to get Anderson sliding into the plate, but the umpire called the runner safe for a 6-0 Bishop Amat lead.
St. Francis got back two of those runs in the bottom of the third on a two-run homer by shortstop Alex Blandino
, however Bishop Amat scored three more times in the fifth to boost the lead to 9-2.
Gonzalez did the damage again for Bishop Amat. After Serrato singled and Anderson walked, Gonzalez singled for the third straight time to plate both runners. Gonzalez scored later in the inning on a passed ball.
St. Francis was able to score a single run in the sixth on an RBI single by Blandino, but Gonzalez blasted a pitch 360 feet over the left centerfield fence to score two more runs for Bishop Amat.David Berg
, pitching five innings in relief of starter Daniel Zamora
, got the win. He gave up one run on four hits with 10 strikeouts including three in the final inning. Reed took the loss for St. Francis, giving up nine runs on five hits with five strikeouts.
Besides Gonzalez, Serrato also had a solid day for Bishop Amat, going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Davis, meanwhile, was 2-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs.
The loss drops St. Francis to 20-2 on the season and puts them into the fifth-place bracket against Bingham (South Jordan, Utah)
today at 1 p.m. at El Dorado. Bingham lost a 7-1 decision to El Capitan (Lakeside, Calif.)
Bishop Amat tangles with El Capitan at 4:30 p.m. at CSU Fullerton today.
The other semifinal pits IMG Academies (Bradenton, Fla.)
against host Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.)
at 7 p.m.
IMG Academies rallied from an early 2-0 deficit against Chaminade (West Hills, Calif.)
for a 3-2 victory Tuesday. Kirk Dirschl
scored two of the runs for the winners while Eric Myskowski
scored the winning run in the fifth on a base hit by Charles Sheffield
Esperanza knocked off Clovis West (Fresno, Calif.)
9-4 in the other quarterfinal contest.
In the consolation bracket, Cypress (Calif.)
topped Notre Dame Prep (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
, Valley Christian (San Jose, Calif.)
edged Sunrise Mountain (Peoria, Ariz.)
, 4-2, Chatsworth (Calif.)
downed Christian Brothers (Memphis, Tenn.)
and Alemany (Mission Hills, Calif.)
knocked off El Dorado (Placentia, Calif.)
The tournament continues today with eight games. In the consolation bracket, Cypress meets Alemany at 10 a.m. at El Dorado and Chatsworth takes on Valley Christian at 4 p.m. at El Dorado. In the 13th place bracket, Notre Dame Prep plays El Dorado at 1 p.m. at Esperanza and Sunrise Mountain takes on Christian Brothers at 10 a.m. at Esperanza.
In the championship bracket, St. Francis meets Bingham at 1 p.m. at El Dorado in the fifth place bracket while Chaminade takes on Clovis West at 4 p.m. at Esperanza. At CSU Fullerton, Bishop Amat takes on El Capitan in one semifinal at 4:30 p.m. and IMG Academies meets Esperanza at 7 p.m. in the other semifinal.