The Monarchs begin CSL play with a shaky win in a league where nothing is certain
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
EXETER — Nothing was for certain during the Monarchs Central Sequoia League home opener last Thursday night against the Selma Bears. Late in the game Exeter’s multiple run lead was cut down to one. Still, the Monarchs begun league with a win, defeating Selma 5-4, for the four years in a row.
“We will take the win over Selma anytime,” Exeter head coach Kevin Kirkman said. “They are scrappy, and if you make a mistake they will take advantage of it.”
After two and half innings of scoreless baseball the Monarchs (8-2,1-0) broke through with three runs in the bottom of the third. Jaykob Acosta, the third batter in the inning, stepped up to the plate. A single to center field scored Justin Turner from second base, and advanced Anthony Torres into scoring position.
The next batter was Dillon Howell. He did one better as he hit a bases clearing double to the wall in left center to make it 3-0. As he rounded second the Bears (2-5,0-1) relay throw from the infield was just barely being tossed. Noticing he had time Howell tried to stretch the hit into a triple but was tagged out.
The attempt to try and take the extra base had some adverse effects in the fourth inning. After a fly out and Howell’s third strike out of the game Howell seemed to be laboring. Back-to-back walks put the Bears into scoring position. A third base steal followed by a base hit and the Bears were on the board 3-1.
Even when another Bear was 90 feet from home, Exeter’s pitchers seemed far too concerned with the base runner at first, something Kirkman takes responsibility for.
“I probably called more pickoff attempts than we threw,” Kirkman said. “They were taking twelve-foot leads over there, and I think if we throw over there a little bit more we get a couple.”
Exeter maintained at least a two-run lead through the sixth inning. A single by Turner back up the middle of the infield scored Sal Briones from second giving Exeter a 5-2 lead. And with closer Brian Roach, who took over pitching in the top of the seventh, the last three outs seemed like a formality.
After dispatching the first two Selma batters Roach was one out away from his third save of the season. A walk and an error later put two runners on. Allowing the potential tying run to come to the plate. A single past a diving Caleb Reynoso at second base scored both runs.
With Selma only trailing by one, 5-4, the Monarchs pulled Roach and brought in Acosta. After a fielding error on his first batter Acosta struck out his second from a full count to end the game.
If Exeter’s outcome is any precursor to the league title race, it is anything but certain. In the only other CSL match last Thursday night Dinuba (7-1,1-0) defeated Central Valley Christian (2-7,0-1), the defending champions, 2-1.
“There are teams who are going to get after it, so we are going to have to battle every game,” Howell said.
Exeter will host the Central Valley Christian Cavaliers tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Last season CVC took two of the three games, and the Visalia Tournament Lower-Division title over Exeter.
However, last night the Monarchs began the private school double with a trip to Immanuel to play the Eagles 6-3. Results were reached after press time.