The streak ended, but the season may be just starting for the Casa Grande High School baseball team.
Casa's winning streak was stopped at 21 Thursday night when the Gauchos were beaten by Cardinal Newman, 4-2. The loss also prevented the Gauchos from completing a perfect North Bay League season in their first year in the league. Casa Grande is the NBL champion with a 12-1 record and is now 21-2 overall. Still ahead for the Gauchos is a final league game at Montgomery Friday, followed by the NBL Tournament and then the North Coast Section playoffs.
Cardinal Newman ended the Casa Grande streak using the same formula the Gauchos had used to put it together — good pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.
Ridge Etchell provided the pitching, but he needed help. The senior pitched four adequate innings, allowing the Gauchos their two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeous. He had only one perfect inning among his four. When Casa put its first two batters on in the fifth, Zak Faber came on to get out of the jam. Faber struggled though an eventul sixth, and when, the Gauchos put the potential tying runs on base in the seventh, Cardinal ace Corey Hammell came on to get the final out, although it was really not much of his doing.
Cardinal Newman had eight hits off Casa Grande pitchers Nick Marks and Eric Parnow, but thRee were of the bunt variety and three came in an inning when they scored just one run.
Although the Cardinals made three errors in the game, they also made two magnificent, and very significent plays in the outfield.
In the sixth inning, with the Cardinals clinging to their 4-2 lead, Iggy Llorence led off with a towering fly to deep right field. With the ball dancing in a stiff wind, Cardinal Newman outfielder Alex Roesner turned his back to the infield and raced in pursuit. At the last instant, with his back still to the infield, he leaped, lunged and snared the ball. They catch grew in importance as Casa Grande put the next two runners on base, but ultimately failed to score.
The Gauchos made a last-ditch effort to pull the game out in the seventh inning. With one out, Jake Ielmorini hustled out a hit into the shortstop hole, and, an out later, Nate Bills kept the inning alive by shooting a single up the middle. That brought on Hammell to face Llorence. The Casa senior tagged a long drive to left-center that seemed destined to chase home the tying runs, but Cardinal center fielder Erik Owenson simply out ran the ball to make an outstanding catch to end the game and Casa Grande's winning streak.
Casa Grande ran the game off to a good start, using the hustle of lead-off hitter Francis Christy to score in the opening inning. The catcher started the Gaucho offensive with a single up the middle. Jake Ielmorini then put down a neat sacrfice bunt, and, when Christy noticed no Cardinal was covering third, he kept running, When the Cardinals realized Christy's intentions, Cardinal first baseman Jake Popoff threw to two late-arriving teammates. Neither caught the all as Christy raced home.
The 1-0 advantage held until the top of the fourth when Cardinal Newman fashioned a three-run rally off Eric Parnow out of a walk, a single that roled through the shortstop gap vacated by Casa infielder Anthony Bender as he attempted to slip behind a runner at second, George Foster's single to left, a pair of wild pitches and a successful safety squeeze.