Wilson baseball coach Andy Hall said it both during and after Wednesday’s 7-3 victory over Long Beach Poly: “Baseball is a silly game.” The Bruins have admittedly not been playing close to their best baseball this season, while the host Jackrabbits entered the game riding high with an unblemished Moore League record.
But none of that mattered between the lines at Gwynn Family Field as the Bruins put up five runs in the third inning to earn a crucial Moore League victory against the defending league champs.
“We’ve struggled in a lot of respects this year–offensively, defensively–so it was nice to see us play a pretty clean game,” said Hall after the win. “It’s a huge victory for us and it’s interesting to pull ourselves back into the race a little bit.”
The Bruins got a big lift from senior second baseman DJ Erkman, who was 3/3 at the plate with a double, two runs, two RBIs and a walk. He also turned a double play with the bases loaded in the third inning to help get Wilson out of a bases-loaded jam. He did not mince words about how important this win was for Wilson’s season.
“Oh, it’s huge,” Erkman said. “We’re coming off two games with 17 errors combined (against Millikan and Lakewood), and this never happened in any of our history, it’s like the worst start to a season ever. And I think this is just a huge win for us to get back on the right path and hopefully to a Moore League title. We’ve got to buckle up and keep going.”
Erkman got Wilson on the board in the third inning with a bases-loaded single, which ended up scoring all three runners after a misplay in the outfield. The first five batters reached base for Wilson in the inning, helping the Bruins score five times. John Lanterman (3/4, R, RBI) smacked one of his two doubles of the afternoon in that third inning and came into score the fifth run on an RBI single by Zach Wakefield.
That was in support of Bruins starting pitcher Charlie Royle, who cruised through the first two frames but got into trouble in the bottom half of the third. Poly’s Bobby Ramirez ripped a leadoff double to start the inning, but was cut down on a failed sac bunt attempt. After a single and a hit batter, Poly had the bases loaded with just one out for power hitter Ryan Skjonsby. Under pressure, Royle induced an inning-ending ground ball to second, where Erkman stepped on the base and fired to first for a massive double play.
“Man, that was really nice,” said Royle of that double play to keep the 5-0 lead intact. “That was probably the turning point in the game where we realized that this was ours to lose.”
Royle ended up going the distance for Wilson, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits, striking out six Jackrabbits without issuing a walk.
The Jackrabbits were able to push three runs across in the bottom of the sixth, but never got the deficit under three and never sent the tying run to the plate after Wilson’s five-spot. Troy Criss led off the sixth-inning rally with a single, then scored on an error on a ball hit by Ryan Skjonsby. Edgar Rosales smacked an RBI triple to bring Skjonsby home and would later score on a groundout. Poly also put two men on in the seventh but it was too little, too late against Royle.
“I like how we battled back,” said Poly head coach Brent Lavoie. “We ran out of real estate and time there late, but tip your cap to Wilson, they put the ball in play and made some things happen. When they had that big inning, I think I counted three errors we made that inning and another ball that could’ve been caught, and it’s baseball, you can’t give good teams free opportunities. They’ve been on the other end of that, but today we got a little taste of it. You’ve got to find a way to respond and stop the bleeding but they out-executed us and got it done today.”
Wilson (8-12, 4-2) will be back in action on Friday at Cabrillo while Poly (15-4, 5-1) will visit Jordan to kick off the second half of league play.