Leading into Wednesday’s slate of games, the Christopher High baseball team had established a 6-0 Monterey Bay League mark, outscoring the league’s lower-tier teams 62-11 in the process.
Meanwhile, to the same juncture of the season, Monterey and Monte Vista Christian were busy posting 9-1 and 7-1 league records, respectively.
Eventually, the Cougars, Toreadores and Mustangs would have to duke it out. Eventually.
So when Wednesday’s encounter against the MBL’s perennial power Monterey – reigning Central Coast Section Division II champions, nine-time defending MBL titleholders and so forth – finally rolled around, it popped the cork on a critical stretch that will undoubtedly impact Christopher’s fate come season’s end.
“I told the guys the other day that we have a four-game season coming up,” CHS manager Ryan Dequin said. “These games will make or break league.”
One month into the 2012 campaign, the first of that four-game gauntlet (two versus both Monterey and MVC in the next seven days) had arrived – and the Cougars were ready.
Benefiting from six Toreadores’ errors, and of course providing their own pop, CHS defeated Monterey 9-3 and officially tossed its hat into the title chase.
“We started off on the right foot, but that’s only one out of the four that we have to take care of,” Dequin said. “We have been going at every game pretty much the same. There was a little bit of a change in the mindset because we have been playing those teams that aren’t going to be factors in league. We hadn’t proven ourselves yet. We had to come out and get the job done and the guys stepped up.”
CHS is now 7-0 (12-4 overall) and has a rematch with Monterey (11-9 overall, 9-2 MBL) on Friday and a home-and-home series with MVC, which won Wednesday, next week. The Cougars final two games of the regular season come against the same two clubs.
“It felt good, obviously, but we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” first baseman Nate Davis said. “We have to stay on top of it. “They beat us three times last year – we have only beaten them once. We still have to catch up. If we get them the next two times, that’s when we can be happy about it.”
There was plenty to be pleased about Wednesday, though. After falling behind 1-0 in the first, the Cougars outscored the visitors 9-0 before Monterey’s Jameson Nieto’s two-run home run in the seventh produced the 9-3 final score.
Starting pitcher Brian Ransom, who leads the MBL with seven victories, labored a bit, but relied on his defense in working, unscathed, out of two separate bases loaded, one-out dilemmas.
“You could tell he was a little tired, but he did a great job in finding his spot and getting his command under control,” Dequin said of his pitcher who ended up allowing just one run in six innings. “He’s a guy who is not going to strikeout a lot of guys, so when your defense is playing well, it can get you out of some jams.”
The first such jam came in the second inning, just after the Cougars tied the contest 1-1 in the bottom half of the first. A single, hit batsmen and a walk contributed to the predicament. However, a nifty dig of a ground ball to his right by Davis and a subsequent toss to Ransom covering first ended the threat. Ransom and the Cougars avoided damage in similar fashion in the fifth as well. The CHS defense also eliminated two Toreadores at home plate.
“When he gets those ground balls we have to back him up,” said third baseman Brennan Wilson, who reached base three times and scored twice.
Conversely, Toreadores’ errors in the field, coupled with an aggressive approach on the base paths from the Cougars, accounted for five of the nine runs. The Cougars did most of their damage in the middle innings, scoring four times in the third and three times in the fourth.
“I look at it – they pretty much gave us the game,” Dequin said. “We hit the ball hard, put the ball in play, and they threw it around and gave us some runs. (Monterey) is going to come back hard on Friday.”
Cid, including his third-inning home run, and Brandon Irby had two hits. Ryan Fredricks and Patrick Valdez had one RBI apiece. Wilson, Davis, Fredricks and Brandon Pickens recorded one hit each.
Friday’s game is slated for 4 p.m. in Monterey.