The CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoff opener on Friday at Long Beach Poly turned on just a handful of plays as the Jackrabbits were eliminated by Gahr 6-2.
Poly put a runner on base in all but one inning and stranded five runners in scoring position while trying to play catch up after Gahr took a 3-1 lead in the second inning. The Jackrabbits (20-9) pulled to within one run and it looked like Edgar Rosales had stolen third with no outs in the sixth inning, but was inexplicably called out on a high throw.
“The umpire didn’t tell me he came off the bag, he said that the tag was down in time,” Poly coach Brent Lavoie explained. “That’s baseball and you have to live and die with calls. Did it change the outcome of the game? I believe it did. There was a good chance we were at least going to tie the game there. Sometimes the calls don’t go your way and that’s just the game.”
Gahr (16-13) got a stellar start from Cristien Banda, a Long Beach State Dirtbags commit, who pitched into the seventh inning while scattering four hits and five free passes. Banda also broke the game open in the second inning with a two-run triple to right field.
Poly had taken the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Kenny Barnabee drew a one-out walk and ended up scoring on Bobby Ramirez two-out RBI double. Ramirez, Rosales, Troy Criss and Ryan Skjonsby all hit doubles. The Jackrabbits cut the lead in half 3-2 in the third inning when Barnabee scored on a ground ball off the bat of Rosales.
Senior Elias Torres got the start for Poly and pitched into the fourth inning before Rosales took over and used six strikeouts over the next three innings to keep Gahr off the scoreboard. Rosales then led off the sixth inning with a double.
Rosales attempted to take third base on a ball in the dirt, and it looked like he got under the tag. However, he was called out. Lavoie demonstratively protested the call to no avail.
“The umpires missed a couple really close plays that were pivotal,” Rosales said. “And (Gahr’s) timely hits. We just didn’t have one today. I’m pretty sure that’s what switched it.”
“That’s the game of baseball, it’s a game of inches,” Lavoie said.
Poly was also inches away from quelling both Gahr rallies but couldn’t track down a pair of fly balls. The Gladiators added insurance runs in the seventh inning on a sacrifice fly by Brian Munoz and a two-run single by Angel Cortez.
“Life and the game of baseball isn’t always going to treat you the way that it should,” Lavoie told his team after the game. “We need to keep our heads really high. They can’t even understand the magnitude of what they’ve done until later on down the road. I couldn’t have done it with a better group. They’re hurting but they know what took place a week ago and that’s going to be with them for the rest of their lives.”
Poly won the first back-to-back Moore League championships in program history this year, and Rosales has been named the league Player of the Year.
“That guy is awesome,” Lavoie said of Rosales. “He’s been in the starting lineup since day one when he showed up as a freshman. He and Troy Criss, those guys are cemented in the legacy when you’re talking about the back-to-back titles. It starts with those two guys.”
Rosales said he couldn’t stop thinking during the post game talk.
“It was a lot of flashbacks to memories from the last four years on Varsity with Troy (Criss) and I couldn’t have done it without him,” he said. “Everyone this year was so tight knit, this was one of the funnest years of high school baseball.”
Rosales also said he expects the Jackrabbits success to continue.
“Lavoie holds us to a high standard and I’m sure he’ll keep doing that with the younger guys,” Rosales said. “He has a good group.”