Sophomore Eddie Gaxiola had a day to remember for Lakewood on Friday. In a must-win Moore League contest against a Poly team that beat the Lancers in extra innings earlier this year, Gaxiola went 4-for-4 and hit a walkoff shot into the outfield to drive in the game-winning run in a 2-1 Lancers victory.
Lakewood coach Spud O’Neil knew that when he turned to a lot of young talent to lead this year’s Lancers team, it might take a few weeks for them to gel. No game could have highlighted that more than their two meetings with Poly. The first game was an 11-10 win for the Jackrabbits; the Lancers played a much better game Friday.
“We’re playing so well right now compared to early in the season,” said O’Neil. “Even when we lost to Redondo Union last weekend, we’re playing well.”
The only blemish on the game for Lakewood on Friday was overly-aggressive baserunning, which saw them caught on the basepaths four times. Gaxiola was seeing the ball well and is hitting .364 on the season after the performance against Poly.
“It feels great,” said Gaxiola. “I just wanted to come out and play well and help us win.”
The game also showcased the mental and mechanical improvement of Sebastian Irwin, the Lancers’ pitcher who’s been lights out in his last few starts. He held Poly to three hits, compared to the 17 they had in their first meeting.
Lakewood got on the board first in the third inning when a hard-hit grounder by Carter White scored David Baruch when the Jackrabbits tried to catch Baruch at home and couldn’t get the ball there in time. Poly answered back the next inning when E.J. Andrews was ruled by the umpire to have danced around a tag at home after a pop up by Mike Mauai.
Andrews, a senior Fresno State signee, has not done much pitching in his career, certainly not as much as he did on Friday. Andrews wanted the responsibility of stepping onto the mound and acquitted himself phenomenally, holding the Lancers to one run in the first six innings. In the seventh, though, Lakewood got a leadoff double from Kevin Kolb and then couldn’t make a play on a bunt from Nathan Blair. After that they intentionally walked Irwin to bring up Gaxiola, who was 3-for-3 at that point. He saw a fastball from Andrews and put it into center left for the game-winning RBI.
“We were hoping for a timely hit and didn’t get it today, they got it and we didn’t,” said Poly coach Brent Lavoie. “EJ was huge—he wanted the ball and we gave it to him. He did his job and gave us every opportunity to win.”
Poly left six runners on base including three in scoring position.
Lakewood (10-14, 7-1) remains in a first-place tie with Millikan and will host Mira Costa Saturday morning. Poly (13-13, 5-3) will face Cabrillo at Blair Field next Wednesday.