The disappointment of an underwhelming regular-season has turned into an assurance of hope for the Gilroy High baseball team in the Central Coast Section playoffs.
The No. 8 seed Mustangs are peaking at the perfect time, as evidenced by a 6-5 win over top-seed Soledad on Saturday in a Division V quarterfinal. Gilroy (3-7) plays No. 5 seed The King’s Academy Wednesday at 4pm at Fremont High in Sunnyvale. Mustangs coach Dennis Castro said the players are realizing if they play together as a team, they can do some great things. The proof came in beating Soledad and its ace, Eric Segura.
“We’re excited for the next two days of practice, but the key for us really at this point is to go out there and do what we know how to do,” Castro said. “The mindset is let’s be that Cinderella story. Our girls softball team did it (won the CCS Division III title on June 10); why can’t we do it?”
The Aztecs scored two runs in the first inning before the Mustangs scored three times in the second. Castro said Bryan Walters had a run-scoring triple, David Seanez a RBI double and Ryan Villanueva drove in a run with a single. Gilroy took command from that point, scoring another run in the third and two more in the fifth, highlighted by a towering solo home run from Jacob Godwin, Castro said.
Gilroy’s batters made key adjustments after the first inning, Castro said, by shortening their swings and not overswinging against Segura’s lively fastball.
“He has what we call a sneaky fastball in baseball terms,” Castro said. “The arm is much faster than what the body shows so when a pitcher’s body is coming forward, typically as a hitter you’re getting your timing and loading down and getting ready to explode to the ball. But his arm action is so fast the ball gets on you quick. Luckily, we were able to relay that to the guys and they made the huge adjustment. We shortened up our swings, let the pitcher provide the power and we put the ball in play.”
Castro said Aaron Valdez and Jacob Parks “did a great job pitching,” with Valdez tossing 5 ⅔ innings of two-run ball and Parks going the final 1 ⅓ innings to close things out. Soledad had runners at first and second base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning when Parks recorded a strikeout to clinch the outcome. Parks also had two RBIs as Gilroy played one of its best games of the season in adverse conditions.
“The wind was blowing out of that park like we haven’t played in years,” Castro said. “Guys’ hats were flying off and it was just a crazy wind. But the boys did a great job of getting over that barrier.”
Right fielder Ty Torres, who suffered a broken wrist before the season started, has returned to give the team an added dynamic. Castro said Torres played solid defense, legged out an infield single and stole two bases. Seanez had a team-high three hits and drove in a run, Walters finished with two hits and a run driven in, and Owen Straub had a key hit, Castro said.
Physically and mentally, the Mustangs have put things together at the right time.
“These guys are starting to realize that if we play as a team, we’re a pretty good team,” Castro said. “They’ve taken a lot to heart with the struggles we had during the season. We had such a great game with Valley Christian and Christopher earlier in the season before slowly going downward in the wrong direction. I think they’ve learned a lot from that and now bringing it together as a team again they realize they can do a lot if they work together.”