San Benito slips past Mustangs

Second baseman Roberto Celestino makes a throw to first after a

Rivalry games tend to be the great equalizer, even when two
teams are headed in different directions. Thursday’s game in Gilroy
between the San Benito Haybalers and the Gilroy Mustangs was no
different, despite the ‘Balers entering the contest winners of
their last four games and eight of their last nine while the
Mustangs had dropped seven straight.
Rivalry games tend to be the great equalizer, even when two teams are headed in different directions.

Thursday’s game in Gilroy between the San Benito Haybalers and the Gilroy Mustangs was no different, despite the ‘Balers entering the contest winners of their last four games and eight of their last nine while the Mustangs had dropped seven straight.

For seven innings the two teams tussled, with the lead being snatched by both sides, before a single up the middle by Spencer Brann in the top of the eighth scored Brian Haggett from third. The run proved to be the difference as San Benito’s Zach Canez recorded two strikeouts with runners on second and third in the bottom half of the extra frame to hold on for a 7-6 win.

“I’ve been here four years and the last time I’ve won here was my first year,” San Benito coach Michael Luna said. “Gilroy has (had) a winning record against us. You always have one team that’s your nemesis – whatever you do they find a way to beat you.

“Even though they had lost seven coming into the game, I knew it was going to be an exciting game. I knew during the course of the game there was going to be some adversity.”

After going up 4-1 in the top of the third on a Steve Cabral RBI and a wild pitch and error by Gilroy that resulted in two more runs, San Benito saw the Mustangs start to chip away at the lead and eventually go ahead 6-5 in the bottom of the fifth.

Gilroy’s Danny Contreras had an RBI single in the third inning, Josh Carter (2-4) had an RBI single in the fifth before two wild pitches resulted in runs by Eric Vegas (2-4) and Carter, and Taylor Chris scored later in the inning on an error.

“Every time you play Hollister you better be ready to play,” Gilroy coach Clint Wheeler said. “It just seems like it’s always a nailbiter when we get together, regardless of records, and today was no different.”

Kyle Zozaya (3-3) scored Canez with a single in the top of the sixth to even the game 6-all, leading to the tense finish in the eighth.

Both teams went through four pitchers and despite three errors being committed by both ides, there were some fantastic, game-changing plays made in the field. San Benito could have led by more than one going into the bottom of the eighth had Gilroy catcher Lukas Fortino not blocked the plate to tag out a sliding Zozaya and gun down Spencer Brann attempting to move to second amidst the commotion.

Fortino, who had a home run in the second inning, found himself on the wrong end of another phenomenal effort to start the bottom of the eighth, though, when San Benito shortstop Ronnie Fhurong made a diving catch to record the first out.

“He’s been doing that all year,” Luna said of Fhurong’s catch. “It’s almost common to see those plays every game.”

The timing of the play, however, was what made it all the more special. Fhurong said the victory was more than just another notch in the win column, noting that the ‘Balers (16-4 overall, 9-0 league) now hold a commanding lead in the Tri-County Athletic League standings going into Saturday’s rematch with Gilroy (7-13, 5-4) at 11 a.m. in Hollister.

“It’s big because this win – the next game they’re going to come out thinking they can’t beat this team,” Fhurong said. “They’re now four games behind us (in league) so that gives us the upper hand on Saturday.”

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