Rangers survive scare from Golden West

Redwood’s Erik Rico pitches against Golden West.(Kason Clark)

Redwood baseball walks off for a 4-3 league victory against Golden West; Rangers improve to 6-0 in the East Yosemite League, win their 21st straight league contest

VISALIA – At home this past Wednesday night, several streaks were at stake for Redwood baseball. The Rangers were looking to stay undefeated in the East Yosemite League this year and also win their 21st straight league game dating back to last season – and facing Golden West, the Rangers were looking to extend their 18-game winning streak against the Trailblazers dating back to 2015.

Redwood started strong taking a 3-0 lead to start the night, but Golden West came back to tie the game heading into the seventh inning. Despite letting the lead slip away, the Rangers responded by loading the bases in the seventh. Now with the chance to gift his team the win, freshman Wyatt McElree came through with the sacrifice fly to bring home Vincent Barba for a 4-3 walk off victory on April 10.

“When I go to the plate I find my spot on the bat, take a deep breath and let everything go,” McElree said about his big hit to win the game. “I step onto the plate and I’m just locked in and ready.”

While he wishes the offense could have produced more runs, Redwood head coach Dan Hydash was happy to pull out the win to remain undefeated in league play.

“It’s a good win for us this time of year,” Hydash said. “Offensively, we left a lot of runs on the board early but when we needed to get a run across, Vincent Barba had the leadoff double and ultimately our freshman Wyatt McElree came up with the big sac fly so we’ll take the win.”

The Rangers now stand at 14-5 this season and have a 6-0 mark in the EYL. The Rangers are looking to go undefeated in league play for the second straight year after going 15-0 last spring. Despite some tough battles, the Rangers have pushed through any adversity over the past couple springs.

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Golden West’s David Rodriguez bats against Redwood. (Kason Clark)

“It’s just our team chemistry,” McElree said about their success in league. “We’re all pretty close to each other.”

During that streak, Hydash reached a milestone as Redwood’s head coach. In their win over El Diamante in their league opener last month, Hydash picked up his 200th win coaching the Rangers. After leading the program for the past ten years, reaching that threshold was a huge accomplishment for Hydash.

“Obviously, it’s a pretty cool milestone as a coach,” Hydash said. “I’ve had such a good coaching staff with me since I’ve been here and obviously, we’ve got talented kids that come in and they buy into what the philosophy is and they work hard. So I give all the credit to my coaches and players.”

Early on against Golden West, it looked like the Rangers would cruise to another league victory and another win for Hydash’s resume. After loading the bases in the bottom of the first, a walk drove in Hunter Kittinger to give Redwood the lead. Later in the second, Scotty Weber scored on a sacrifice fly from Kittinger. McElree then scored on a Golden West error to extend Redwood’s lead to 3-0. But the Rangers left several runners on base, giving the Trailblazers a chance to come back.

And Golden West began to take advantage in the third inning. Christian Cain got his team on the board when he scored on a fielder’s choice. David Rodriguez then made it a 3-2 game with an RBI single to right field. Later in the fourth, the Trailblazers tied the contest thanks to an RBI double from Marcus Garcia.

Over the next few innings, both teams struggled to produce at the plate as the game remained a stalemate. Heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Rangers needed a spark if they wanted to remain unbeaten in the EYL

Barba gave his team that spark with a double to right field early in the inning. With the winning run now on base, the next two Redwood batters got on base to load them up for McElree. With a chance to win the game, McElree hit it deep for the sacrifice fly that got Barba home for the walkoff. 

With the tough loss to Redwood, the Trailblazers fell to 7-13 this season and a 2-4 record in the EYL. While they did not get the result they wanted, Golden West head coach Jeff Housman believes the Trailblazers demonstrated grit against the Rangers.

“I was excited about the way my guys played. They played hard the entire game,” Housman said. “They didn’t fold at all and they were ready to go. I think we expected to win today and we’re disappointed it didn’t turn out that way but my guys are going to play hard for seven innings every day.”

As they head further into their league schedule, the Rangers will be looking to remain unbeaten in the EYL. But if they are going to do that, the Rangers will have to produce at the plate in order to support their defense.

“Offensively coming into the year, we thought we might struggle a little bit here and there and today, it was kind of back to what we were doing early in the year where we were leaving runs out on the board,” Hydash said. “Our pitchers and defense have really been the backbone of this team this year. Without them, we wouldn’t have a winning record so offensively, we have work to do.”

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