The magic that is the Casa Grande High School baseball season continued Wednesday afternoon when the Gauchos rallied with two outs in the last of the seventh inning to defeat Ukiah, 2-1.
The win was the 12th straight for Casa Grande after an opening-game loss to Wood High School of Vacaville. Seven of those triumphs have been by a single run, with five coming on the Gauchos' final at bat.
Wednesday's home-diamond win was typical of the Casa Grande season. The Gauchos hung in the game behind good pitching and defense until the hero of the day produced the game-winning hit. Wednesday, outfielder Charlie Parnow played the hero's role. Parnow's game-winning hit came with two out in the last of the seventh inning, and chased home courtesy runner Josh Adams with the run that provided Casa Grande with its third North Bay League win without a league loss. Ukiah is now 7-6 overall and 0-2 in league,
"Pitching and defense shortens games," said Casa Grande coach Paul Maytorena. "They keep us in games long enough to get a key hit."
For five innings, the game was a pitching battle between Casa Grande's Dominic Garrihan and Ukiah's Adam Quiroga. Neither was dominating, but both were junk-yard dog mean with men on base.
Garrihan's deadly curve didn't seem to have quite as much bite as it has when he is at his best, but he battled, allowing five hits and a walk, while striking out eight, many at key times after the visiting Wildcats had put runners on base. He seemed to get stronger as they game progressed, retiring the Wildcats in order in the fourth and fifth innings, after facing danger in each of the first three frame.
Quiroga lived even more dangerously. He gave up just three hits, but had to strand eight Casa Grande runners over his five innings to limit the Gauchos to one run. The Ukiah right-hander had all sorts of trouble finding the strike zone in the first inning, walking four Casa batters, including Casey Longaker with the bases loaded to force in a run. However, he also struck out two in the inning and left the bags loaded with Gauchos, limiting the damage to one run.
As clouds chilled what had started out as a warm spring afternoon, it looked as though the one run would be enough. But Paul Steliga led off the Ukiah sixth-inning with a slicing drive to right that eluded Casa Grande outfielder Jake Ielmorini and went for a double. One out later, Jeff Piver rolled a single through the left side of the Casa infield, but a hustling retrieve by Gaucho left fielder Richard Lile held Steliga at third.
It looked as though Garrihan might escape with the lead intact when he whiffed Dylan Lancaster for the second out, but catcher Russell Pinnegar, a defensive rock behind the plate for Ukiah the entire game, singled to right to drive home Steliga with a tie.
With two still on and two outs, Eric Parnow came on to strike out two to get the Gauchos out of the inning with a 1-1 standoff. He had to fan two, because his first strikeout came on a pitch in the dirt that bounced away from Casa catcher Francis Christy and allowed Brandon Acevedo to reach first base to load the bases. Undaunted, Parnow did it all over again, striking out Quiroga to end the threat.