Summerville shortstop Bryce Farrell (above, left) grabs a throw from catcher Trevor Larsson and tags out Calaverasâ speedy Mike Seawell in the third inning trying to steal second base on Friday in Tuolumne. Amy Alonzo Rozak / Union Democrat
Colton Ebbers was upset after turning away from an inside fastball with two outs, the bases loaded in the fourth inning and his Summerville Bears trailing the Calaveras Redskins 4-1 on Friday in Tuolumne.
"That first pitch was inside and close to my shoulder," the senior lead-off hitter said, "and I was really mad at myself I didn't let it hit me so we could get a run."
While getting hit to bring the Bears a run closer may have seemed like a good idea, his decision to turn away was even better.
Ebbers blasted the next pitch over the left field fence for a grand slam to give the Bears their first lead and Danny Robles' two-out RBI infield single in the seventh lifted Summerville over Calaveras 8-7 to clinch a playoff berth and second place in the Mother Lode League.
"It was probably the prettiest pitch I've seen all season," Ebbers said. "Once I hit it, I was real excited. I thought it was a double and I had a couple of RBIs under my belt. But I was fortunate it went over because it gave us that extra boost to surpass Calaveras."
"Wow!" exclaimed Summerville head coach Larry Gold post game. "This team has become resilient. They can find themselves down but they're not out. They have no quit in them. They've got the drive, they've got the desire and can bounce back after taking some lumps.They got down there 4-1 at one point. Just believing in what they can do, they load the bases and then boom! Grand slam!"
But the grand slam didn't win the game for the Bears. The Redskins, who with a win would have been tied with the Bears in the MLL, are a pretty resilient bunch too.
Now trailing 5-4, Redskin catcher Anthony Flores was hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth inning. Derek Rittenhouse followed with a single and Thomas Boitano sacrificed to move the runners up. An out later, Jake Souza's infield single tied the game.
The Bears answered with two runs in their half of the fifth. Bryce Farrell doubled, Joey Brocchini singled and Logen Foster followed with an RBI single. A two-out bases-loaded walk from Robles gave the Bears a 7-5 lead.
The Redskins again fought back, this time on one big swing of the bat.
Flores launched a high, deep fly ball to left for a home run to cut the Bears' lead in half.
"It was a good game back and forth," said Redskins head coach Tom DeLappe. "We battled back and put ourselves in position to give ourselves a chance to win it. I liked that we came back. We had a lead and then we kind of got our heart cut out by the grand slam and then we came back. We got some runners on base and got some hits when we needed them."
In the seventh inning, the Redskins tied the game on three walks and an error and had the bases loaded with one out.
But 6-foot, 7-inch Summerville first baseman Connor Morningstar used all his size to make the defensive play of the game.
Redskin Brian Golston hit a soft liner that Morningstar knew he needed to catch before it hit the ground.
"I was expecting the ball on that play," Morningstar said. "It came off the bat and I just went for it. Danny (Robles, earlier in the game) had a ball that spun right away from him. I didn't want that ball to have a chance to spin away from me."
Morningstar at full extension caught the ball right before it hit the ground. He alertly tossed the ball to his pitcher, Foster, who covered first, for the double play to end the threat.
"That was an absolutely fantastic play," Gold said. "Connor laying out to get that and then popping up and tossing it to his pitcher covering first base was just perfect."
In the home half of the seventh, Foster singled and two outs later Tanner Krieg walked, his third of the game. Both advanced on a wild pitch and Robles' infield chopper gave the Bears a walk-off win.
"We knew coming into this one it was a huge game, bigger than Wednesday," said Ebbers, who went 2 for 4, two runs scored and four RBIs. "Wednesday's win over Argonaut and today's win, I think we're almost unbeatable right now. We're very confident. We wanna take it to Amador (Tuesday), hopefully in five innings, and then we wanna go to Linden (MLL champs) and show them what's up at their place."
Foster earned the victory for the Bears, his second of the week, throwing the last three innings, allowing three hits, two earned runs while striking out three.
"Logen did a good job of coming in and pulling through in tough situations," Morningstar said. "He did a great job of throwing in the clutch."
Foster also went 3 for 4 at the plate with a double and two runs scored, Farrell went 2 for 3 and Robles went 2 for 3 to lead the Bears (9-4 MLL) at the plate.
Flores belted a bomb and scored twice and Souza scored twice for the Redskins (7-6 MLL).
While the Bears have clinched their playoff berth, the Redskins are in a fight for third place, the final MLL postseason qualifying position. They will host Argonaut (7-6 MLL) on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
"Our season probably comes down to next Tuesday (vs. Argonaut)," DeLappe said. "But then we finish with Bret Harte. And Bret Harte is Bret Harte. And anybody can beat anybody."