Casa rolls Newman, moves on

By RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA — Beating North Bay League rival Cardinal Newman four out of five times in one season is quite an accomplishment, one that Casa Grande achieved on Friday afternoon. Of paramount significance, the Gauchos’ fourth win over the Cardinals keeps Casa Grande’s magical season afloat and continues its playoff march.

The 9-3 victory for the top-seeded Gauchos (26-2) propels them to the semifinals of the 16-team CIF North Coast Section Division 2 baseball playoffs. Casa Grande will host its next game Wednesday at 4 p.m., against the winner of today’s second-round game between No. 4 Maria Carrillo and No. 5 College Park (Pleasant Hill). The Gauchos are 3-0 against the NBL-foe Pumas this season.

“It’s hard to beat a quality team four times in one season,” Casa Grande coach Paul Maytorena said. “Hitting-wise we are doing a lot better. It was a good thing to put up nine runs today.”

The Gauchos easily won the NBL regular season with a 13-1 record and amassed a 21-game winning streak before the Cardinals ended it late in the season. Casa defeated Newman 2-1 in the North Bay League postseason tournament championship game on May 17.

Friday’s game was much closer than the score would indicate. In fact, for the first half of the game the No. 8-seeded Cardinals (15-13) were in control, with a 3-1 lead after three innings.

“We needed to jump out in front early in a game like this,” Cardinal Newman coach T.J. McMahon said. “All the pressure was on Casa Grande.”

Cardinal Newman scored two runs in the first and one in the third off Casa starter Dominic Garihan, who was lifted after three innings having given up four hits and two earned runs. Eric Parnow started the fourth in relief for the Gauchos and gave up only three hits in four scoreless innings to ice the Cardinals.

“Parnow was clutch, exactly what we needed,” said his battery-mate, catcher Francis Christy. “I’m impressed with how we are playing right now.”

The tide turned in the bottom of the fourth inning as Casa hitters finally got to Cardinals ace James Proctor in a variety of ways. The three-run Gauchos outburst began with a bad-bounce single, a hit batsman and walk. With one out and the bases jammed, Casey Longaker drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, pinch-hitter Zack Shimek singled in the second run and Christy rapped a hit for the third. Proctor didn’t make it out of the inning and was relieved by Corey Hammell.

“Early on Proctor had a hard time hitting his spots, but then he settled in and had a few good innings,” Cardinal Newman coach T.J. McMahon said. “He had a heck of a season.”

Maytorena said the Gauchos had an advantage because they had faced Proctor over 14 innings in previous games, while Cardinals hitters had never faced Garihan and saw Parnow only in small increments.

“We had a better approach for our at-bats against Proctor today,” Maytorena said. “When we were down 3-1 it was a little uncomfortable, but I knew we would score more and that three runs wasn’t enough to win the game.”

The Cardinals tried to rally against Parnow but he worked out of a bases loaded, two-out jam unscathed in the fifth inning, which turned out to be the last major Cardinal Newman threat.

“Parnow has pitched well every time we have seen Casa,” McMahon said. “They (Casa) have got good pitching and they have the mental toughness to come from behind to win close ballgames.”

The Gauchos put the game away with five runs in the sixth inning against Hammell and Cardinals reliever Mitchell Wilhelmsen.

Curiously, Casa didn’t hit the ball well during its uprising, with four of five hits in the inning not making it out of the infield. Toss in a few missed defensive assignments by the Cardinals, and the Gauchos lead went from 4-3 to 9-3.

“We used our home field advantage. We know the conditionson our field,” Maytorena said. “Our approach is to put the ball in play and good things happen. You have to put the ball in play and not strike out.”

“We are used to playing in close games all the time and we did what we usually do,” said team leader and pro prospect Christy. “We got some lucky breaks today — bad hops helped us.”

Every team needs some luck here and there to go along with talent during a championship run.

“They are a good team and I expect them to win it all,” McMahon said of Casa Grande.

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