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Timberwolves rally to give Cats first Valley Oak League loss

    Two days after Sonora defeated Sierra 12-0, the Wildcats on Friday went for the season sweep of the Timberwolves at Bev Barron Field.
    Taking a 4-1 lead after three innings, it appeared the Cats were off and running again. But the game changed quickly and Sierra rallied for four runs in the fourth and five more in the fifth and left town with an 11-6 victory.
    “We came out pretty strong, but honestly I don’t know what happened after that,” said Wildcat Dylan Fernandes. “Once they got up on us, we fell apart. I think once we fell apart — and just like we would do to any other team — they kicked us while we were down. I think we did a lot of good things, but errors really cost us a lot in this game.”
    After Sierra scored a single run in the first inning, Sonora went to work in its half.
    Karson Canaday led off with a sharp single to right field. One pitch later, Wyatt Johnson executed a perfect hit-and-run, grounding a single into right field advancing Canaday to third.
    With one out, Bradley Begley drove in a run with a ground out.
    Justin Payne capped Sonora’s first inning rally with a towering two-run homer over the left-field fence.
    Payne swung at a fastball about shoulder high and hit a majestic big fly.
    “It was a fastball middle, middle and maybe up,” said Payne. “I’ll take it all day right there if I can get my bat up, hands up, yep, I’ll take it. I was looking for a pitch to hit hard. He left it up and I swung hard.”
    Payne’s team-leading second home run of the season put the Cats ahead 3-1.
    Sonora added another run in the second inning. Canaday was hit by a pitch and immediately stole second base, something he does with regularity, having swiped 17 on the season through 13 games.
    Fernandes, with two out, ripped a double down the left field line to plate Canaday for a 4-1 lead.
    And the Wildcats were sailing along. That is until the fourth where two errors helped Sierra score four runs. Sonora committed two more costly errors in the fifth.
    “We started off strong but we relaxed and they beat us at the short game —  that’s all there is to it,” said Canaday. “We need to practice harder. We haven’t been giving it our all at practice and it showed. We 10-runned those guys the other day and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have blown them out again. It’s just the game of baseball.”
    “I feel that they came out wanting to play hard,” said Payne. “After the game we had the other day, they wanted to play a good game and they did. I don’t think we laid down at all, but they just played a better game.”
    The Wildcats, down 11-4 in the bottom of the seventh, added two more runs on a double by Canaday and singles by Fernandes, Begley and Grant Dodge.
    The Wildcats outhit the Timberwolves 11-10, but Sierra (9-3, 1-1 Valley Oak League) drew seven walks compared to one for Sonora.
    For the Wildcats (9-4, 1-1 VOL), Canaday went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, Fernandes went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, Payne went 2-for-4 and Nolan Dambacher went 2-for-2.
    There’s no rest for the Wildcats in the grueling VOL as they next play at Manteca (6-4, 1-1 VOL) on Wednesday.
    “This is a definite gut check time for everybody on this team,” said Canaday. “But I have no doubt we’ll be ready for Manteca next week.”

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