Alex Neve ripped a solid line drive into left field to drive in Arman Yektaparast with the winning run in the bottom of the eighth inning to give St. Vincent a thrilling 4-3 win over upstart Sonoma Academy on Tuesday afternoon.
With Yektaparast moving on a two-out pitch with the count three and two, the hit by Neve drove him in without a play at the plate, and the Mustangs took over first place in the North Central League II baseball race with the second half still to be played.
Neither team led by more than one run during seven regulation innings, and both had a chance to win it. Sonoma Academy twice had runners on second and third with less than two outs, but could not convert against Mustangs starter Dusty Oliver or Neve, who came in to relieve in the eighth frame. The clutch safety by Neve gave him credit for the win, although Oliver threw seven stellar frames before he was moved to shortstop by coach Gary Galloway when the overall pitch count began to get a little dicey.
"I was happy with the way our kids competed today," Galloway said afterward, "it was a tighter game than we wanted, and I didn't think we played our best defense, but the kids were involved throughout the game as it played out. There was good sportsmanship on both sides today."
St. Vincent grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the first inning when George Sammon rolled an RBI base hit past the Coyote third baseman, scoring Yektaparast, who had previously singled and pilfered second base.
Oliver breezed through the first three innings, but Sonoma battled back in the top of the fourth inning with a pair of runs on three consecutive hits. Dean De La Montanya got the big hit of the frame with a well-struck base hit to put Sonoma ahead.
St. Vincent battled back in the bottom of the fourth to knot the game at 2-2 on a two-out single by Oliver.
Both teams scored in the fifth, and the game went to extra innings when St. Vincent went down in order against Sonoma starter Steven Stack in the bottom of the seventh.
Stack went back to the bump in the bottom of the eighth inning after Neve got out of a jam for the Mustangs in the top half of the frame. A smooth double play with Oliver taking a good feed from Sammon at second base turned the trick, and gave the Mustangs another chance in the tight contest.
Stack rolled along until the eighth inning when he was greeted by a single by Yektaparast. It was the second base hit for the St. Vincent center fielder, who also knocked in a run in the fifth inning and scored twice.
Two following hitters were set down by the consistent Coyote right hander, who had thrown 18 first-pitch strikes to stay ahead of the hitters most of the afternoon.
Neve was a different problem, however, as he fouled off a full count pitch, and the running Yektaparast returned to first base. The next pitch by Stack bit off a little too much of the plate, the reliable Neve found the open spaces down the left field line and there was no chance to turn in a defensive play.