In what amounted to an impressive tuneup for the North Coast Section playoffs, Casa Grande’s baseball Gauchos won the North Bay League Tournament title by dispatching Maria Carrillo’s Pumas, 11-1, Friday afternoon on Cardinal Newman’s synthetic diamond.
The win continued Casa Grande’s domination of the NBL. After winning the league championship with a 13-1 mark, Casa easily handled both Cardinal Newman, 16-8, and Carrillo in the four-team league tournament.
Friday’s victory in the title game over the Pumas was vintage Casa Grande. The Gauchos scored a run in the first inning, never trailed, played sold defense behind good pitching and exploded for a big inning to put the game away.
Quinten Gago pitched the victory, scattering seven hits over six innings. Key to his win was control. He did not walk a batter, keeping the Pumas off balance with a swift fastball and a devastating change.
“I felt good from the start,” the pitcher said. “I knew when I was warming up it was going to be a good day.”
It was also a good day for Casa Grande defenders, who backed their pitcher with some sparkling defense that included nice grabs of line drives by shortstop Joe Lampe and second baseman Eddie Bermudez and a base runner gunned down by catcher Hance Smith.
For Gaucho batters, a good day started with a run in the first inning fashioned on a single by John Green, a walk to Spencer Torkelson, a single by Gago and a force out by Smith.
In a sense, one run was a failure for the Gauchos, who left the bags full, but as minimal as it was, it was enough to give Casa a lead it never relinquished.
By the time Maria Carrillo touched Gago for its only run, Casa Grande had added three more in the third with three walks, the pitcher’s second hit of the game and a dropped fly ball mingling to produce the rally.
A reasonable game turned silly in the sixth, when Maria Carrillo relief pitchers Colin Anderson and Anthony Escandon combined to walk five Gauchos, including four in a row at one point. Bermudez and Smith had the only hits in what turned into a seven-run rally.
Casa closer Smith finished the game out with two strikeouts in a scoreless seventh.
Gauchos bomb Newman
Casa Grande spotted an early advantage to visiting Cardinal Newman, but the Gauchos came roaring back to spank the Cardinals, 16-8, in the tournament semifinals.
The regular-season champion Gauchos trailed by three runs in the first inning, but they sprayed enough base hits around the yard to move convincingly into the finals.
The contest at Casa had a tone of a scrimmage, with Newman trotting out seven pitchers in an effort to slow down the Gauchos, who banged out 15 hits.
Casa Grande took command of the game in the bottom of the second inning with the help of some small-ball tactics. A bloop single fell into left field, followed by a bunt, walk, fielder’s choice and a ground-ball base hit by Green that evened the score at 3-3 with two runners still aboard.
Torkelson then put an exclamation mark on the rally with an opposite-field smash to right-center that flew out of the ballpark to cap the explosion. Three runs crossed the plate and the hard-hitting Gaucho outfielder finished with four RBIs for the game. Torkelson has a team-leading 39 RBIs for the season.