Baseball Lakewood Long Beach Poly

Baseball: Long Beach Poly Uses Six Run Sixth to Beat Lakewood

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On Friday afternoon, Long Beach Poly did a great job preventing the big inning–until it was their turn to score. The Jackrabbits allowed nine Lakewood batters to reach base in the first three innings, but only two of them came home to score.

Then in the top of the sixth, Poly sent 12 batters to the plate, scoring six times to turn a one-run deficit into a five-run lead. The big rally fueled a 7-4 victory for the Jackrabbits over Lakewood, giving them a season split against the Lancers.

“I’ve had a lot of firsts this year, and getting my first win over a legendary coach like Spud O’Neil is a special feeling, it really is,” said first-year Poly head coach Martin Rodriguez, referring to Lakewood’s longtime coach, who ranks second all-time in wins in California. “I’m overwhelmed, to be honest with you.”

In their three previous league games against last year’s playoff teams, the Jackrabbits scored just a single run in each game. Breaking out for six runs in a single inning was akin to a dam breaking, and there was a flood of emotion in the Poly dugout throughout that entire rally.

“We’ve been waiting 18 games to see that kind of offense from us,” Rodriguez said. “We know it’s there. These kids know it’s there. And for it to come out on Friday afternoon at Blair Field, we couldn’t pick a better time.”

Before the deluge of runs in the sixth, the theme of the day was run prevention for Poly and starting pitcher Joshue Sayre. Lakewood put the first two batters on base in the first inning, then put the first three batters on base in both the second and the third. The Lancers were able to parlay that traffic into a 2-0 lead, but missed an opportunity to put the Jackrabbits in a deep hole early on.

The Lancers nearly scored in the bottom of the first, but a great throw home from right fielder Adrian Bernal turned a potential sac fly into an inning-ending double play.

“I had to help my boy J-Dot out. I knew it was gonna be a bang-bang play, and it helped the guys out, giving us momentum,” Bernal said of his throw to the plate. “That play set the tone for the game.”

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Lakewood did take the lead in the second inning as an RBI single from Noah Nunez brought home Anthony Zepeda. In the next inning, the lead would double thanks to a bases-loaded walk to Anthony Rueda, allowing Brandon Luna to come home and make it 2-0 Lancers.

After stranding the bases loaded in the third, Sayre settled in to retire nine of the next 10 batters he faced, racking up four strikeouts in that span to keep Lakewood stuck on two runs through the end of the sixth.

Bernal walked in the fifth to start a one-out rally for Poly, then came home to score on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice hit by Jesse Ritz. That made it 2-1 Lakewood in the fifth, setting up Poly’s big rally.

The first six Jackrabbits to bat in the sixth inning would find their way on base, and Poly also benefited from three Lakewood errors in the inning. Lakewood used four different pitchers in the inning as Poly sent a dozen men to the plate, totaling six hits and a walk.

Isaac Holder started the inning with a base hit–one of three for him on the day–and he would single again later in the inning. Sebastian Morales delivered the first extra-base hit of the day, smacking an RBI double to left center to score pinch runner Antonio Yepez, tying the game at 2-2.

Rodriguez said his team emphasized effective small ball after their first game against Lakewood, and that paid off for the lead as Izaiyah Gutierrez laid down a great sac bunt to score Henry Lucero for the 3-2 lead. Gutierrez reached base safely thanks to a Lakewood error, and would come home to score on a two-run double by Bernal down the left field line.

A Jesse Ritz RBI single capped the scoring, giving the Jackrabbits a 7-2 lead. They would eventually strand the bases loaded, but had given their pitching staff more than enough cushion.

Lakewood scored a pair of runs in the seventh thanks to an RBI fielder’s choice and a sac fly, but couldn’t sustain the rally any further.

The win gives Poly (10-11, 6-2) an outside shot at defending their Moore League title, but they’ll need some help as Millikan remains undefeated in league play.

The Jackrabbits will resume Moore League action next Wednesday against Jordan, while Lakewood (11-11-1, 6-3) will travel to play at Millikan next Friday.

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Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.