SAN ANDREAS Bret Harte High School suffered through a baseball nightmare Saturday, giving up four runs with two out in the bottom of the seventh and losing 7-6 to archrival Calaveras.
"It's the worst thing ever to happen in my coaching life," Bret Harte coach Heath Lane said.
Instead of putting a hammerlock on the Mother Lode League championship, the Bullfrogs (12-7, 7-3 MLL) find themselves only a half-game ahead of Calaveras and Linden (both 7-4).
"We could have almost wrapped it up, but now it's a real fight" not only for the championship, but for the MLL's three Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoff berths, Lane said.
Also in the mix are Argonaut (5-5) and Amador (4-5), and anything could happen the next couple weeks as teams scramble to make up rainouts and pitching gets stretched thin.
Despite not being able to use Sean Nelson, its co-ace along with Anthony Bennett, because of elbow pain, Bret Harte had Calaveras completely under control. Ryan Carter worked the first four innings and left with a 6-3 lead. Bennett took over and cruised into the seventh with the three-run margin still intact.
Then, the sky fell.
With two out and a runner on second base, Bennett appeared to catch Andrew DeLappe looking at a third strike to end the game. But the call never came and DeLappe walked. The next Redskin hitter, Dennis Madrid, walked on a close 3-2 pitch to load the bases.
Jake Thornburg then hit a fly to shallow left field. The ball appeared catchable, but dropped in for a two-run single. Thornburg wound up at second when the throw from the outfield went to the wrong base.
"I had just told them not to let (Thornburg) get to second if he got a hit," Lane said.
The final blow came when a routine grounder was thrown away at first base, allowing Madrid to score the tying run and Thornburg to trot home with the winning run.
"We didn't do little things right twice, and it cost us," Lane said. "That's how it's been for us on defense this year."
Bret Harte built a 6-1 lead in the first four innings. The Bullfrogs scored in the first on a single by Judd Bales and a sacrifice fly by Ken Baptista, and got two runs in the second on doubles by J.T. Ulyatt, Brian Kane and Bales.
The Bullfrogs added a run in the third when Travis Emerson walked and scored on a wild pitch, and they put two more on the board in the fourth on walks by Baptista and Bales and a two-run single by Nelson.
Thornburg went 2-for-3 and Brett Dickinson, Kevin Haight and Madrid doubled for Calaveras. The Redskins took two out of three from Bret Harte this season, giving them the tiebreaker edge if the teams end up with the same league record.
The game was played Saturday after being rained out Friday. Bret Harte was to play a makeup game today at Summerville (2-14-1, 0-9), weather permitting.
The Bullfrogs have regularly scheduled games Wednesday at home against Amador and Friday at Linden. Their last two regular-season games are scheduled for May 6 at home against Summerville and May 8 against Argonaut in Jackson.
The playoffs, in which Bret Harte is hoping to appear for the second straight year, begin May 17. Frosh-Soph Matt Manos hit a home run and a double for Bret Harte (10-6, 4-6) in a 14-4 loss to Calaveras.
The Bullfrogs' (7-12, 2-6 Mother Lode League) game today against Summerville was cancelled because of poor field conditions at Standard Park in Tuolumne.
Bret Harte will play Summerville tomorrow at Standard Park and in San Andreas on Thursday against Calaveras.