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Peninsula Sox comeback nixed

By Terry Bernal SM Daily Journal, 06/22/17, 4:00PM PDT


The Peninsula White Sox had one impressive early-inning comeback in them. Any ideas of another one late in the game fell just short.

San Mateo County’s Palomino League White Sox squad was overcome by the Los Gatos Legends 9-6 Wednesday night at Sea Cloud Park. All six of the Sox’s runs came in the second inning in response to a five-run outburst by the Legends in the top of the frame.

After Los Gatos (4-1 overall) retook the lead in the fourth on a two-run double by Tanner Murray, the White Sox (7-4) twice came within a few feet of launching game-changing home runs. Both drives fell just shy though, as did the Sox’s late-inning comeback hopes.

“Since the second inning when they scored six, we were a little scared,” Murray said. “But our pitchers did a good job.”

The Los Gatos defense did an even better job, specifically on an amazing Willie Mays-style catch by center fielder Brian Tatman in the bottom of the seventh, running down a deep drive with an all-out sprint and his back turned completely to the infield.

Prior to that, though, the White Sox had an earlier chance to close the scoring gap. Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the fifth, with Ryan Juncker having reached on the previous at-bat with a two-out single, the Sox got a charge when Jackson Driver connected on a bent-arm swing to send a deep shot to left field. The drive came within two feet of clearing the left-field fence for a homer, but instead hit high off it for a double to put runners at second and third.

Both runners would be stranded in the frame.

“I did not get all of it,” Driver said. “I wish I did. Or I wish there was some wind to get it out.”

Driver was keen on a little wind, or any respite from the East Bay weather, having driven over an hour to get to the game from his home in Pleasant Hill, where an excessive heat warning was issued Wednesday after temperatures reached the mid 90s, and are expected to touch 100 degrees Thursday.

He also would have liked to see teammate Aubrey Sine aided by a little wind on the drive that got gloved by Tatman in the seventh. But Mother Nature was having none of that.

Los Gatos added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh, so Sine’s drive with one runner on base couldn’t have evened up the score. But it sure would have given the White Sox a surge of momentum. Instead, Tatman seized the momentum going all out for what seemed off the crack of the bat like an improbable play.

Tatum got a full head of steam running straight back towards the outfield fence, and refused to slow down as he neared it. His effort was rewarded when he reached out with full extension with a backhand to rob Sine of extra bases.

“[Tatman] is kind of a quiet killer in our outfield,” Murray said.

While any late-inning dramatics by the White Sox were stifled by a matter of a few feet, it was the 90-foot increments that were the team’s overall undoing. Sox pitchers issued eight walks in the game, with three coming around to score, which just happened to be the scoring differential in the game.

“We’ve been playing really good baseball,” White Sox manager Lenny Souza said. “We’ve been swinging the bats. But we’ve been giving up some freebees.”

White Sox starting pitcher Andrew Yarak opened smoothly enough. The right-hander set down the first four batters he faced, commanding three groundouts and a strikeout. When Los Gatos’ James Halpin, a recent graduate of Serra, grinded out a 10-pitch at-bat for the game’s first hit, however, everything went haywire for Yarak who got snakebit for a six-run second.

The Sox sent 11 batters to the plate in the bottom of the frame as Los Gatos scuffled through control issues of its own. The Legends issued seven free passes in the game, including four in the second, two of which coming with the bases loaded to force home runs. Cleanup hitter Dom Monozon cashed in with a two-run single to give the Sox a 6-5 lead.

But four more walks issued by Sox pitchers in the fourth opened the door for Los Gatos to retake the lead.

“I feel like every game we’ve lost, it’s been walks or errors,” Souza said.

The loss was the second straight for the White Sox, who Sunday fell to the Reno Muckdogs in the championship game of the Peninsula Spring Classic at Sea Cloud Park for the second straight year.