Rancho Cotate squeezes by Montgomery 4-3

By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rancho Cotate's Will Felton forces out Montgomery baserunner Josh Lenney at second base but is unable to turn the double play on Wednesday. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

Rancho Cotate’s Will Felton forces out Montgomery baserunner Josh Lenney at second base but is unable to turn the double play on Wednesday. (Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat)

The suicide squeeze is a thing of beauty when executed properly and at the right time.

On Wednesday afternoon this masterpiece of baseball plays was evident as Rancho Cotate perfectly utilized one of the game’s rarest weapons to punctuate a 4-3 comeback win on the road against Montgomery in a North Bay League match-up.

The Cougars (8-5, 3-0) went into the seventh inning trailing 3-2 after blowing an early 2-0 lead. Rancho proceeded to load the bases via a hit batter, a single and a botched fielder’s choice by the Montgomery (7-2-1, 2-1) defense on a Rancho sacrifice bunt. Then with no outs Ryan Haug grounded into a fielder’s choice up the middle to plate the tying run, setting up the game-winning play.

With one out and runners on first and third against Montgomery reliever Henry Stelzner, Rancho cleanup hitter Chris Delsanto worked the pitch count to 1-1 before time was called and Delsanto was summoned for a quick huddle with the Cougar’s third base coach. On the next pitch, a fastball, Kevin McGuiggan charged from third base towards home-plate as Delsanto laid down a perfect bunt hugging the first base foul-line to score the winning run.

“I was just looking for a pitch to put down the line and I got a fastball up and away and I just went with it,” Delsanto said. “It was exactly what I wanted to do.”

The perspective from the charging McGuiggan was from a different angle but with the same positive outcome.

“It was the best execution I have ever seen,” McGuiggan said. “I just had to make sure he (Stelzner) didn’t throw over to third and pick me off.”

Rancho coach John Morrow called for the squeeze and was ecstatic that his go-for-broke play cashed in the winning run.

“I was jumping up and down in the dugout,” Morrow said. “Our guys execute what we ask them to. I think it surprised them (Montgomery) a little bit because it was our number four hitter.”

Indeed, the play did catch the Vikings defense a little off-guard.

“That (squeeze) was a little unexpected, especially with their clean-up hitter,” Montgomery coach Dean Haskins said. “Playing in close games is what it will be this year for us. The league is very strong.”

Rancho reliever Anthony Sosa (W) got the decision by pitching out of jams in the Montgomery sixth and seventh innings but it was Cougar starter Connor Littleton who kept the Vikings hitters bottled up for most of the game.

“Rancho’s starter kept us off-balanced. We didn’t make the adjustments at the plate until the third time through the order,” Haskins said. “We needed some better at-bats with runners on base.”

Littleton went 5« innings, giving up seven hits and two earned runs while striking out three in a no-decision.

“Connor pitched well. He just keeps batters off-balance,” Morrow said. “Connor is a great pitcher. He has currently been pitching like our ace.”

Vikings starter Anthony Prince also lasted 5 1/3 innings in his no decision, giving up six hits and two earned runs while fanning eight.

“Anthony gave us a good start,” Haskins said. “He gave us a good chance to win, which is all you can ask for from your starter.”

“Their starter (Prince) did a good job keeping us off balance,” Morrow said. “We couldn’t lay off his high fastball.”

Rancho scored two runs in the third inning off Prince with the big blow a two-run double with the bases loaded and one out by the Cougars Ryan Walsh.

Montgomery tied the game 2-2 in the fifth inning, with the runs coming off a booming RBI-double by Jared Lablue followed by an RBI-single by Mitchell West.

The Vikings took a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning on an unearned run that scored on a single by Jake Hunt.

“We definitely have the ability to come back on teams but we are struggling early in the game, at least offensively,” Haskins said. “We needed some better at bats with runners on base.”

Going into the seventh with a 3-2 lead all the momentum appeared to be on Montgomery’s side, but that didn’t last as Rancho’s daring squeeze play won the day.

“It (the squeeze bunt) was just perfect,” McGuiggan said with a wide grin.

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