Prep Baseball: Cougars rally to beat Gilroy 12-7

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Gilroy's Alex Benavides swings at a pitch against Christopher March 21 at GHS.

GILROY—Christopher and Gilroy came out swinging to start Friday’s crosstown clash at Gilroy High.
The Mustangs took an early 6-1 lead in the bottom of the first, but it was quickly erased when the Cougars answered with seven runs in the top of the second to take the lead.
And they never looked back.
Christopher won the first meeting of the season, beating Gilroy 12-7. 
The Cougars’ starting pitcher Bryan Easton was stellar after his rocky first inning. He allowed seven hits—six of which came in the first—and struck out six through six innings of work. The Mustangs went up and down in order in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. Cougar coach Ryan Dequin said the team never lost faith in the pitcher and it knew he’d get the job done.
“I just wanted my team to keep playing for me and keep getting some productive outs, put the ball in play and that’s what we did,” Easton said. “It takes a team effort to get that win.”
Gilroy freshman pitcher Alex Benavides came in as relief for starter Jimmy Lemberger and he looked like a veteran. Benevides allowed two runs on five hits and struck out two through three innings of work.
Following that performance, Mustangs coach Billy Holler said the freshman pitcher has a bright future ahead of him on the mound and at the plate as he also doubled and stole a base. For Benavides, it was all in a day’s work.
“I was just trying to throw strikes, get outs,” he said. “(The game against Christopher) was intense, especially the lead up to it. We know them; they know us. There (are) a lot of friends, a lot of enemies, so it was intense. It was a good game.”
The Cougars drew first blood when Easton grounded out, allowing Alec Cordova to cross the plate in the top of the first.
Gilroy’s Justin Hale led off the bottom of the inning with a double to centerfield and advanced to third on single from Patrick Hsu. Lemberger singled to shallow centerfield, scoring Hale to even the score at 1-1.
Dallas Wilson and Ben Reeder hit back-to-back singles, loading the bases and then scoring Hsu to take a 2-1 lead. Lemberger came home on a wild pitch and Wilson wasn’t far behind, scoring off Dominick Johnson’s single on the next play. Jon Jon Castro hit a grounded out, but it was enough time for Reeder to come home. Johnson capped off scoring for the Mustangs, crossing the plate on a wild pitch to give them a 6-1 lead.
But Christopher wasn’t intimidated and wasted no time getting to work in the top of the second.
Joseph Lujan led off with a single to shallow right-centerfield. A single from Darren Santos and a walk of Anthonee Bartholic loaded the bases for Christopher. The Cougars would have the bags full eight times in the game.
Leadoff man Justin Nelson singled to right field to score Lujan and cut Gilroy’s lead to 6-2. Cordova walked and Rodriguez was hit by a pitch, pushing Santos and Bartholic across the plate. Easton then hit a sac fly to centerfield to score Nelson and get his team within one, 6-5.
The always-dangerous Makaio Duyao tripled to deep left field to score Cordova and Rodriguez. Duyao was the final Cougar to cross the plate, scoring on a wild pitch two plays later to give Christopher an 8-6 lead.
“It was tough when we started off behind,” said Nelson, who earned the leadoff spot after an impressive outing against Salinas the game before. “We just had to work together and just rally back.”
The Cougars had a change to widen their lead, but left the bags full in the top of the third inning and they didn’t score again until the top of the sixth.
A leadoff single from Nelson, a Cordova walk and a hit batter, Rodriguez, loaded the bases for Christopher with Easton up to bat in the top of the sixth. He singled to shallow right field to score Nelson and kept the plates loaded up. Duyao hit a sac fly to score Cordova and improved his team’s lead to 10-6.
Lemberger came back in for Gilroy to start the seventh, but things quickly got out of hand. Bartholic, who reached on a wild pitch, scored when Brandon Cook doubled to deep centerfield. Back-to-back walks loaded the bases once again for the Cougars and Mustangs’ ace Hale was brought in for relief. Another walk to Rodriguez allowed Cook to score, but Hale got Easton to hit into the 5-4-2 double play to end the inning.
Dequin said he was happy with his team’s tenacity against Gilroy as it didn’t rest on its lead and continued to score runs.
“There’s always a rivalry because they’ve played with each other for many years,” the Cougar coach said. “They want it just a little bit more when they’re playing against their friends.”
Duyao led the Cougars with four RBIs and a run scored. Nelson was 2 for 4 with two runs, an RBI, a stolen base and a walk.
Gilroy added a final run in the bottom of the seventh when Patrick Hsu reached on a error, scoring Dylan Hsu—who tripled to deep centerfield two plays earlier. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, it was too little, too late.
“It’s been a tough year. We just have inconsistencies and we’ve just got to get rid of them,” Holler said. “We just have to focus on the pitcher and the ball coming out of his hand and do the same thing they did the first time.”
Lemberger led Gilroy with a 2 for 4 performance, including an RBI and a run scored.
Gilroy is 2-11 overall, 1-8 in league and looks to rebound against San Lorenzo Valley at 4 p.m. Tuesday at home.
“We have the athletes, we just have to get in the game mentally,” Holler said. “…You have to compete every inning. We’ll get there.”
Christopher will play Santa Teresa at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Gavilan College. The win puts the Cougars at 5-8 overall, 3-4 in league play.
“We need to learn the game a little bit more,” Dequin said. “We play the game, we just don’t understand situations and taking care of the baseball. We’re coming back and playing a bit more as a team, that’s always a good thing.”

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