Tigers scratch out extra-inning victory

Woodlake’s Guillermo Rosales pitches on the road against Lindsay.(Kason Clark)

Woodlake baseball survives a nine-inning thriller against Lindsay to win 6-4; Tigers now solely hold first in the East Sequoia-Sequoia League with a 5-1 record 

LINDSAY – With both teams sporting 4-1 league records heading into this past Wednesday night’s game, Woodlake and Lindsay baseball both had the chance to move to first place in the East Sequoia-Sequoia League. And with that opportunity before them, both teams came to play.

On the road, the Woodlake Tigers got off to a roaring start taking a 3-0 lead. But in the bottom of the seventh inning, the Lindsay Cardinals came back to tie the game and force extra innings. After letting the lead slip away, the Tigers retook control to take the lead in the ninth inning. They then held off Lindsay for the 6-4 victory on May 1.

“We knew coming in, it was going to be a tough game,” Woodlake head coach Juan Gamez said. “We knew we were going to face their best pitcher and we had our best pitcher, so we knew it was going to be tough to score runs today.”

With their victory, the Tigers climbed to the top of the league standings with a 5-1 record. They also improved their overall record to 17-7 and recorded their fourth straight win. As the Tigers have excelled on the diamond this spring, Woodlake senior Vincent Duran credits it to their team chemistry.

“We’re just learning to be teammates outside of baseball, just be friends and love each other,” Duran said.

With their win over Lindsay, the Tigers completed the season sweep of the Cardinals in league play. Woodlake defeated Lindsay, 5-2, earlier in the season, and early on in their second meeting, it looked like the Tigers would easily complete the sweep.

After a slow offensive start for both teams, the Tigers broke through in the top of the fifth inning. After Beck Holzm worked his way to third base, he scored on a bunt from Thomas Leedy. Later in the sixth, Ismael Pena scored on a sacrifice fly from Guillermo Rosales. Elias Lang followed that up with an RBI single to extend Woodlake’s lead to 3-0.

With the lead heading into the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers were three outs away from the victory. But the Cardinals instead began to spread their wings in the seventh. After getting two runners on base, Alex Espinoza put the ball in play to cause an error and allow both runners to score.

Espinoza then worked his way to third base as he looked to tie the game for the Cardinals. And he got that opportunity when a passed ball allowed him to score and tie the game. As the Cardinals knotted things up and forced extra innings, Gamez believes Lindsay capitalized on the Tigers’ mistakes.

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Lindsay’s Juan Marquez Jr. throws the ball at home against Woodlake. (Kason Clark)

“We had a couple errors here and there, we walked a couple of people and they hit the ball at the right time,” Gamez said. “We had a couple bad throws and they were able to find themselves back in the game.”

In the eighth inning, both teams went scoreless to keep it a 3-3 stalemate. But in the top of the ninth, the Tigers found their rhythm again to retake control. After working his way to third base, Duran scored on a Lindsay error to give Woodlake the lead. After letting the lead slip away, Woodlake once again had momentum.

“We just had to stay composed and be team players,” Duran said about his team’s response. “We just had to keep the mindset that we can still win the game and that we’re a better team than Lindsay.”

Later in the inning, the Tigers loaded the bases looking to open things. At the plate, Conner Bates was hit by a pitch to drive in Leedy for another run. Dominik Rodriguez then scored on a sacrifice fly from Rosales to make it a 6-3 lead for the Tigers. After everything the Tigers have gone through this season, Gamez was not surprised by their resiliency in the ninth inning.

“We’ve been in close games, we’ve been in shutouts and we’ve been blown out so they’ve experienced everything,” Gamez said. “It doesn’t affect them, they continue to play the same.”

But the Cardinals still had a chance in the bottom of the ninth. Nate Lopez even scored on a passed ball to cut the deficit to 6-4, but the Tigers recorded the final out to walk away with the win. With their loss, Lindsay dropped to 13-10 overall and 4-2 in league play.

Despite their loss, the Cardinals still have a chance to clinch a share of the league title. But if they are going to do that, they will need to take care of business and hope that the Tigers stumble down the stretch of the regular season.

“If we can just stay at two losses right now and hopefully Woodlake gets another loss, we can all maybe get a three-way tie (with Woodlake and Corcoran) out of this thing,” Lindsay head coach Brett Kendig said.

As for the Tigers, they still control their destiny for a league title. As they now look to finish the season strong in order to secure the league championship, Gamez has a simple message for his players. 

“We basically have to continue playing how we’re playing right now. If we do that, then we put ourselves in a good spot,” Gamez said. “We’re close but we’re not there yet, so we’re just going to take it one game at a time and take it from there.”

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