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Baseball Long Beach Poly Wilson

Baseball: Wilson Blanks Long Beach Poly on Two-Hitter From Howard, Mountain

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Wilson’s pitching tandem of Ben Howard and Cole Mountain put on a masterclass against Long Beach Poly on Friday afternoon at Skip Rowland Field, as a complete-game two-hit shutout plus a timely hit by Dan Royle proved the difference in a 1-0 Bruins victory.

The win puts the Bruins and Jackrabbits in a second-place tie in the Moore League with one week left to play. Millikan has clinched the outright title with Wilson and Poly both 7-3 and Wilson a game back at 6-4.

Wilson coach Andy Hall gave pitching coach Cameron Chinn a lot of credit for calling a great game against the Jackrabbits, mixing in curveballs from Howard and sliders from Mountain to keep Poly off-balance.

“He called a beautiful game, and we’ve got fearless guys on the mound,” said Hall. “It would have been really disappointing to not walk away with a victory after a no-hitter for six innings. I’m just really happy for our guys, because it’s been two long years without a victory over Poly.”

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Howard got the start on the mound and the junior took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, where Poly sophomore Tate Hammond broke it up with a single through the left side. Howard did walk four batters and saw runners in scoring position in the first and second innings before inducing ground outs to end both threats, including a nice double play turned between Matthew Pappas and Rudy Carlos at third and first. 

Howard did a great job mixing a curveball in with his fastball and kept batters guessing, getting a lot of weak contact and letting his defense make plays behind him on the pristine surface at Skip Rowland Field. In addition to the smooth infield play, the Bruins got a great catch on the run looking back into the bright afternoon sun from Royle, the left fielder. 

After some early command issues, Howard did a great job of settling in and cruising, not giving up a hit until Hammond’s knock in the sixth.

“All my guys are coming to me in the dugout and they’re just telling me to take my time,” said Howard. “Breathe, find the mechanics and just do my thing. And that’s what I did. I trust them all playing defense behind me and I just settled in.”

After Hammond’s two-out hit in the sixth to break up the no-hitter, Howard got a pop-up to end the inning. The Bruins then took the lead in the bottom of the sixth as they finally got one across against Poly starting pitcher Joshue Sayre, who yielded six hits while striking out five and walking two in a complete-game effort. The Bruins got a one-out single from Andres Molinar, who snuck one past the shortstop. Rudy Carlos smashed a single off the right field wall to put runners at the corners with just one out, but Sayre bore down and got a strikeout. After that a walk loaded the bases and brought up Royle, who put a hard-hit ball through the right side to score pinch runner Nathaniel Parris and give Wilson a 1-0 lead. Sayre got out of the inning with a fly out after that, giving Poly just the top of the seventh to dig out of the 1-0 hole.

A leadoff outfield hit by Sebastian Morales turned threatening in a hurry as he took second on a slow pickup in the outfield. After that Howard fell behind 2-0 against Poly’s Henry Lucero and Hall made the decision to pull him for Mountain, a sophomore with good velocity and a nasty slider.

“My plan was just to go out there and throw strikes that’s all you can really do,” said Mountain. “I felt confident in my fastball and my slider.”

Mountain hit Lucero, but catcher Dawson Precht snagged a popped up bunt  for the first out, and then a fielder’s choice got Lucero at second, leaving runners at the corners with two outs. Mountain stared down the Poly batter and then threw two sliders, both of which landed for strikes. He wanted to throw a third, but Chinn wasn’t having it, calling a high fastball.

“I shook him off, I wanted to go back to the slider but he told my catcher keep the high fastball,” said Mountain, whose high cheese drew a swing and miss to end the game, setting off a huge Wilson celebration and a lot of love between Howard and Mountain on their combined gem. “I went and thanked (Chinn) right after the game because that was a great call for sure, it was awesome.”

It was a great day of baseball on a sunny afternoon–with great defensive play and pitching from both teams. It’s the kind of game that Hall loves.

“It was great, there’s no love lost between these two schools and it’s a lot of fun for the kids,” he said. “They all know each other, it was a typical 1-0 Moore League game.”

Poly coach Martin Rodriguez was frustrated his team couldn’t take advantage of their opportunities.

“We couldn’t take advantage of the walks,” he said. “We had four or five in the first four innings and we couldn’t manufacture anything. It was tough all the way around. They did a good job of having a game plan against our batters and we couldn’t really get an answer today.”

Wilson (13-11, 7-3) will close the year against Cabrillo and Lakewood next week while Poly (11-14, 7-3) will face Compton and Millikan next week.

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Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.