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March 1, 2021

Prep Baseball: Live Oak quells Gilroy’s rally as Austin walks off in eighth for 4-3 win

Live Oak was content to trade outs to move Kyle Riveron to third to score the game-winning run in the eighth inning against Gilroy.
Only, the Acorns’ execution was just a little too good.
Mitch Conforti and Zach Riveron both laid down bunts that turned into infield singles and John Austin drilled a base hit to center to send Live Oak home 4-3 winners.
Conforti’s bunt caught Gilroy in no man’s land as it drew the first baseman off the bag and the second baseman couldn’t cover in time. His speed did the rest, moving Kyle over to second.
When Zach laid down his bunt, he laid a slow dribbler halfway between the pitcher and first and narrowly beat the throw.
“It was a great bunt by Mitch—they didn’t even have a play on him—then it’s an even better bunt by Zach,” said coach CJ Goularte. “Just two really good bunts to put us in a situation where we have three opportunities with a guy 90 feet away. You expect to win when you’re in that situation.”
Despite the eighth inning, coach Billy Holler was still happy to see the effort from his boys.
“They’re playing better baseball and their working hard, but they’re still a step or two away,” Holler said.
“Got to field bunts, though, at the end of the game, you know what I mean?” Holler added with a laugh.
It was the plan Live Oak wanted to execute in the seventh inning with the game tied. Goularte told Alejandro Martinez he was bunting once the leadoff hitter got on. Only Gilroy pitcher Alex Benevides got a strikeout to open the inning and Live Oak couldn’t end the game in regulation.
“Alex throws strikes for you and hits locations. He’s very composed. He doesn’t get rattled on the mound,” Holler said. “He usually does his job. He’s young, but he’s played a lot of baseball, and he’s a competator.”
In the top half of the inning, the Mustangs did just what Goularte was planning to win the game.
A lead off single from Patrick Hsu turned into a runner on second with one out following a sacrifice bunt by Dylan Hsu.
Patrick scored on the next at bat from an RBI single.
Just an inning earlier, Live Oak had kept Gilroy from completely erasing a 3-1 lead thanks to strong defense on back-to-back plays.
Gilroy had just scored on an RBI single from Benevides and threatened more with runners on the corners and one out.
Benevides took off from first and Jimmy Lemberger followed from third on a delayed steal.
But Live Oak had been working on the play in practice and Austin’s throw down to second was cut off and Lemberger was cut down at the plate.
“We saw practice transfer to a game,” Goularte said. “That first and third execution nails that guy at the plate when they’re looking to tie it up. Then we throw him out (from center field), we had just worked on that the other day.”
Benevides was cut down trying to score from second on a single from Ben Reeder on a strong throw from the center fielder.
Gilroy had its own stellar defense, with four Acorns picked off on the base paths.
All three pitchers used in the game had at least one. Benevitez had two, erasing a dropped third strike in the fifth and a leadoff walk in the sixth.
Still, Live Oak found ways to manufacture runs.
In the fourth inning, a leadoff walk to Zach Riveron turned into a run with a double from Andrew Mendoza after a sac bunt from Austin.
Mendoza scored thanks to a pair of wild pitches, including one where Jacob Ryder drew a walk.
Ryder went to second on a walk to Martinez then to third on a fielder’s choice from Justin Sanders and finally scored when he stole home when Sanders got caught in a run down.
Gilroy had taken an early 1-0 lead in the third inning thanks to a wild pitch with a runner on third.
Sanders, meanwhile, was effectively wild, though Goularte said you wouldn’t have noticed unless you knew the pitches that were being called.
“I know from back there (in the stands) it looked like he was getting guys out and striking guys out, but from a pitch call perspective, he missed a lot of pitches today,” Goularte said. “… It’s impressive that he is still able to go out and do that and kind of shut it down like he did even though he wasn’t super, super sharp.”
He said Sanders couldn’t hit the inside corner with his fastball but thanks to the mixing of speeds and changing looks with fastballs, change ups and breaking balls, Goularte said Gilroy’s hitters were reacting rather than attacking.
“They didn’t really adjust until later in the game when they started working the otherside of the field, but that’s what a pitcher like Justin does,” Goularte said. “… Because he works so many different pitches, guys are constantly on the defensive trying to pick it out.”
Sanders scattered eight hits across seven innings of work with six strikeouts and two walks.
He took the no decision after surrendering the run in the seventh.
Kyle Riveron got the win, working the eighth where he gave up a hit and a walk with two outs, but got a strikeout to end the inning.
Benevides took the hard-luck loss, going three-plus innings giving up five hits and one earned run while striking out two.
“He’s got a big future in front of him. If he starts to get a little velocity behind his pitch, he’ll be tough to deal with,” Holler said. “… He just plays like he’s 17, 18 years old.”
Gilroy will stay in Morgan Hill, taking on Sobrato at 4 p.m. today. Live Oak, meanwhile, heads down to Gilroy to play Christopher at Gavilan College Friday.
*Game notes: The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but was postponed because of the rain earlier in the day.
Umpires never arrived, so assistant coaches from both teams were used to call the game. Both coaches agreed to let the results stand as a real game despite the lack of officials.

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