Cabrillo baseball coach Pedro Torres said before the season that his team wanted to hang its hat on defense and competitive fire. His Jaguars must have been listening, because Cabrillo gave Long Beach Poly everything they could handle on Thursday afternoon at Blair Field. The two teams were tied headed to the seventh inning before Poly finally pulled away, winning 4-2.
The Jackrabbits were coming off an 11-10 extra-innings win over Lakewood that saw them explode offensively for 17 hits. Poly coach Brent Lavoie said he was glad that Cabrillo pushed his team.
“I like that we had to compete, Lakewood was a huge, emotional game for us and we have to know that we’ve got to compete every game,” said Lavoie.
Cabrillo sophomore pitcher Dylan Gambino threw 7.2 innings, giving up seven hits and mixing up the Jackrabbits.
“He was throwing three pitches for strikes today, he was phenomenal,” said Lavoie.
Poly got on the board first in the top of the first inning with a pair of runs. Chris Murphy’s single put him on, then he advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error on a fielder’s choice by Mike Mauai. The Jackrabbits scored a second run later in the inning on a passed ball.
That was all Poly got on the board for the next five innings as Cabrillo shored its defense up behind Gambino. The Jaguars’ catcher, Apolinar Gonzalez, threw out a pair of baserunners trying to steal second and the Jaguars ended a Poly threat in the top of the sixth with a double play. Gambino trusted the players behind him and threw strikes, walking just four batters in seven innings, about half of what Torres said his team averages per game.
Poly senior pitcher John Dameron threw a complete game, yielding just three hits while striking out seven. The Jaguars tied the game in the bottom of the fourth after Gonzalez reached on an error and then Jayson Luithle brought him home with an RBI single. Gambino moved Luithle to third, and Luithle scored on a double steal to tie the game at two runs apiece.
In the top of the seventh Poly freshman Troy Criss drew a leadoff walk and then Sonny Kooner scored him with a two-out RBI single to make it 3-2. Torres pulled Gambino after that and the next three Poly batters drew walks, and Kooner was walked in with the bases loaded to score the game’s final run.
Dameron slammed the door shut for Poly with a pair of strikeouts in the bottom of the inning.
“This is the best-played game we’ve had all season,” said Torres. “They’re finally believing, we still have good ball in us. We just have to play great defense and we’ll be in any game.”
Cabrillo (5-5, 1-3) will resume Moore League play against Millikan back at Blair Field on April 13th while Long Beach Poly (10-8, 3-0) travels to Mayfair next Friday at 3:30 p.m.