By DAN GOLDMAN
LODI Bret Harte High School starting pitcher Anthony Bennett proved the Bullfrogs are more than just a collection of mashers and bashers in Game 1 of their best-of-3 series against Escalon in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV baseball semifinals.
Bennett, who shared the Mother Lode League's Most Valuable Player award this season, lived up to the billing by outlasting the Cougars with a gutsy, complete-game effort in a 5-3 victory last night at Zupo Field.
The junior right-hander overcame two unearned runs, a quiet night at the plate by the Bullfrogs' offense and a seventh-inning rally by Escalon that saw the tying run reach first base as Bret Harte (17-9) hung on for the win and the all-important 1-0 lead in the series.
Bennett, who allowed 10 hits but no walks to go along with six strikeouts, recorded just one 1-2-3 inning, but managed to work out of a couple of late jams while stranding a total of eight Escalon baserunners.
In the bottom of the fifth, Judd Bales (2-for-3, two doubles, two runs batted in, one run scored), juiced his second two-bagger of the game, banging a drive off the wall in left-center field to score Brian Kane (pinch-running for Wes Hacker) and tie the game at 1-1.
With two outs and the bases loaded, designated hitter Sean Nelson blooped a two-run double down the right field line. Escalon right fielder Doug Reichmuth then made a horrible throw on the play, sending the ball into the stands behind the Bret Harte dugout along the first-base line. When the dust finally settled, the Frogs led 4-1.
Bret Harte, however, wasn't quite done, as Quinn Whittle scored on a wild pitch.