Despite loss, Cougars look solid

Cougars senior Jonathan Newman was sensational in Tueday's MBL Gabilan Division opener. Photo by Robert Eliason.

Jonathan Newman felt like his curveball was off at the start of Tuesday’s Monterey Bay League Gabilan Division opener against San Benito. Turns out, nothing was off at all. The Christopher High right-hander was flat-out dominant, striking out nine and allowing just three hits—two on infield singles—over seven innings in the Cougars’ 2-0 loss.

“You hate to be on the losing end of a game like this, but I’m definitely not disappointed in their play,” Christopher coach Ryan Dequin said. “I told our guys not to hang their heads because they should be proud of the way they played.”

Especially Newman, who had all of his pitches working: fastball, cutter, changeup and yes, even the curveball.

“My curve was slipping out (in the first inning), so I had to adapt and figure out my grip so I could get it out in front,” Newman said. “That’s what I did, and all of my pitches were working.”

The Cougars couldn’t generate any offense—they finished with only two hits—against San Benito starter Ryan Jameson and reliever Ryan Platero, who only allowed a runner past second base once the entire way. The Haybalers also made some tremendous defensive plays that prevented the Cougars from gaining any momentum on the basepaths.

Christopher played well; it didn’t commit a single error and it also has another outstanding starter in Sean Straub, who was scheduled to start the second of a back-to-back set with San Benito on Thursday. Andrew Kachel and Zach Griffin were the only two players to produce hits; in fact, both players also drew a walk to reach in two of their three plate appearances.

The Cougars’ best chance to score came in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one out, Griffin singled and advanced to second base on a San Benito error. Josiah Rodriguez entered as a pinch runner, and he advanced to third after an errant pickoff throw from Jameson.

But San Benito snuffed out the Christopher threat after shortstop Mason Marquez made two sensational back-to-back plays on ground balls from Connor Villanueva and Brendan LaBlanc.

“San Benito made some great plays defensively that kept them in the game and kept us off the bases,” Dequin said. “Hats off to them. Their shortstop and second baseman made some great plays that prevented us from scoring on a couple of situations.”

With a roster of only 14 players, Dequin is dead serious when he said it’ll take a true team effort to contend and possibly win a Gabilan Division championship. Even though the Cougars are thin on numbers, they’ve got quality talent at nearly every position. Christopher starts only three seniors, with juniors manning the majority of the positions.

Newman and Straub are seniors, and if they pitch like they’re capable of, the Cougars will be in every game. Newman was dynamite Tuesday, utilizing his vast pitching repertoire to keep the San Benito hitters off-balance.

“Newman had everything working today,” Dequin said. “He was trusting everything he had and everything I was calling. He’s going to do great for us all year.”

Newman expressed confidence the team will have a strong season.

“We have a lot of big expectations,” he said. “We expect to at least go the CCS (playoff) semis. It’s a young, bright group of players, and we have a lot of potential. The sky is the limit for us.”

With players like Kachel, Jack Tomlinson and Rodriguez, it’s no wonder the Cougars are optimistic. Dequin said due to the team’s thin numbers, everyone is expected to play a key role.

“I would say everyone one through nine (in the lineup) is very pivotal for us,” he said. “Even the guys off the bench are going to be very good. … If we played like we did today for the rest of the season, we’re going to be on top more often than not.”