Mustangs fall to Lemoore in extra innings

Tulare Western’s Jace Cuellar hits the ball at home against Lemoore.(Kason Clark)

Tulare Western baseball stumbles in a 5-4 loss in eight innings against Lemoore, Mustangs and Tigers now share first place in the West Yosemite League with a 9-3 record

TULARE – Heading into this past Tuesday night, Tulare Western baseball held first place in the West Yosemite League and had the opportunity to strengthen its position atop the standings. But the visiting Lemoore Tigers had other ideas.

The Mustangs stormed out to a 4-2 lead and were an out away from going up two games in the standings. But the Tigers roared back with two runs to tie the game and force extra innings. The Tigers then pulled it out for a 5-4 eight-inning victory over the Mustangs. While he was disappointed with the loss on April 30, Tulare Western head coach Ken Searcy acknowledges that the Tigers are a tough team to keep down.

“We battled tough but Lemoore is a good team and they’ve got a lot of momentum going,” Searcy said. “There’s a lot of intangibles we’re dealing with outside of our control that we wish we had better luck at, but you have to play the game all seven to eight innings and now we just have to keep competing.”

With the result, the Mustangs and Tigers are now tied atop the West Yosemite League with a 9-3 record and with three games left in the season. Overall, the Mustangs dropped to 13-13 this season while the Tigers improved to 17-7.

In their first league game against Lemoore this season, the Mustangs looked to storm out of the gates. In the bottom of the first inning, Blake Crawford doubled to get on base and then eventually scored on a passed ball to give the Mustangs the early lead.

But the Mustangs’s bats cooled down over the next few innings, giving the Tigers the chance to claw their way back. In the top of the fifth, AJ Swann put the ball in play and reached first base before the Mustangs could turn a double play. This allowed his teammate Andrew Mora to score on a fielder’s choice to tie the game.

After giving up the lead, the Mustangs responded in the bottom of the fifth. With two runners on, Chi’el Sanchez doubled to left field to clear the bases and give the Mustangs a 3-1 lead. He then scored on a sacrifice fly from William Masterson to make it a 4-1 lead late in the contest. 

“I thought we hit the ball hard in certain areas,” Searcy said about Tulare Western’s bats. “We hit the ball right to them several times and they were just placed in the right spot, but I thought we did what we needed to do to win the game.”

But the Mustangs could not hold back the Tigers. In the top of the sixth, Drake Varela scored on a fielder’s choice to cut the deficit to 4-2. Then in the top of the seventh, the Tigers loaded the bases with two outs in the inning.

Tulare Western’s William Masterson fields the ball at home against Lemoore. (Kason Clark)

With the game on the line, Varela put the ball in play and ran to first base to keep Lemoore alive. Fortunately for the Tigers, the Mustangs committed an error that allowed him to reach base and allowed two runners to score to tie the game 4-4.

“We just have to clean that up,” Searcy said about the defensive mistakes. “We just have to play clean baseball and we kicked it around a little bit today.”

The Mustangs failed to respond in the bottom of the seventh as the game went to extras. With momentum, the Tigers wasted no time in the top of the eighth where Talan Leal singled to drive in a run for the lead. The Tigers then shut out the Mustangs in the bottom of the inning to close out the comeback victory.

While it was a tough loss for the Mustangs, they still control their own destiny in the West Yosemite League. As they now head into the final few games of the regular season, Searcy wants his team to know that they will have to battle in order to bring home the WYL title. 

“It’s a dogfight. We’re tied with those guys right over (in Lemoore) and we’re a game up on Hanford so it’s going to come down to the last week and a half for everybody,” Searcy said. 

“That’s what baseball’s about: competing and being in this position. It wouldn’t be fun if you just won it outright. Let’s take it down to the wire and let’s see what we’re made of, because that’s going to make these guys stronger in the end.”

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