Hawks grounded by Independence

Mission Oak’s Kannon Silva pitches against Independence in a home playoff game.(Kason Clark)

Mission Oak baseball suffers 2-0 home loss in the semifinals of the D-IV Central Section Championships; Hawks finish the year with an overall record of 15-15

TULARE – When two teams are in a defensive battle, one hit can be all it takes. And that was the case this past Tuesday when Independence High School and Mission Oak baseball faced off in the semifinals of the Division IV Central Section Championships.

On May 21, both offenses struggled as No. 7 seed Independence and No. 3 seed Mission Oak went into the fifth inning tied, 0-0. The Independence Falcons found an opportunity as they loaded the bases with two outs. That’s when David Baralt came through with a two-run RBI single to give the visiting team the lead. The Mission Oak Hawks failed to respond as their season came to an end with a 2-0 home loss. 

“Today was not our day,” Mission Oak head coach Kevin Break said about the shutout loss. “We had opportunities in the first four innings. We had opportunities with runners on second base with no outs and we just couldn’t get the job done.”

The loss ended the Hawks’ playoff run this spring. They opened the postseason with a 1-0 victory over Nipomo and then got hot in a 14-1 win over Golden West. But against the Falcons, the Hawks’ bats went cold. 

Through the first four innings of the semifinal game, both offenses failed to capitalize on their scoring opportunities. As his team’s offense struggled, Mission Oak starting pitcher Zylan Ramirez came through with a strong pitching performance to keep the Hawks in the game.

“Hats off to that guy. He’s been solid for us all year,” Break said about Ramirez. “To have him go out there and throw a hell of a game, my hat’s off to him.”

The Falcons got their best scoring opportunity in the top of the fifth, an opportunity they did not waste. Their first two batters reached base thanks to a hit and an error. Julian Nevarez then bunted at the next at bat and the Hawks failed to get the out as the bases were now loaded with no outs. 

Ramirez tried to salvage the situation as he struck out the next two Independence batters. However, Baralt finally made the Hawks pay with a hard-hit ball to left field to drive in the two runs for the lead. As that hit made the difference in the game, Break reflected on the missed opportunities to get outs earlier in the inning. 

Mission Oak’s Gage Hastin fields the ball in a home playoff game against Independence. (Kason Clark)

“We had a runner in a rundown and if we get that out, we’re out of the inning,” Break said. “Hats off to those guys. They played a heck of a game.”

The Hawks continued to battle until the very end and even got a runner on base in the bottom of the seventh. But Nick Retiz popped up for the final out as Independence starting pitcher Isaac Lopez pitched a complete-game shutout where he only allowed five hits to the Hawks.

The Hawks finished their season with an overall record of 15-15. While the season came to a disappointing end, Break was proud of the Hawks’ year where they went on a deep playoff run and competed against some strong competition in the Central Valley. 

“It’s been a great season. We played some teams this year that played up. We played some Bakersfield teams and we played some Fresno teams in a tournament to give us experience for games like this,” Break said. “I feel for these kids. They worked hard this year and I wish we could have gotten one more game.”

Other local baseball teams stumbled in the semifinals this past Tuesday, May 21. In the same bracket as Mission Oak, No. 12 seed Monache suffered a 13-3 loss to No. 1 seed Liberty. In the Division VI Central Section Championships, No. 1 seed Woodlake lost, 2-0, at home to No. 5 seed Lindsay.

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