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Casa Grande’s bad inning is worse than Petaluma’s bad inning

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It all depends on your vantage point.

From the Casa Grande dugout down the first-base line on the Petaluma High School diamond, it looked as though the Gauchos gave away the game.

From the Petaluma dugout on the third-base side of the field, it looked as though the Trojans took advantage of opportunities offered.

From the center-field scoreboard, it looked as though the Trojans won the game, 5-3.

From a lawn chair behind the backstop, it looked like Casa Grande’s bad inning was worse than Petaluma’s bad inning.

Two dropped fly balls led to all of the Trojan runs in the first inning. Petaluma responded with three errors as the Gauchos scored all their runs in the fourth frame.

Lefty Chris Sanchez, the only veteran on the Casa Grande mound staff, pitched well for the Gauchos, giving up only four hits to the Trojans. None of the Petaluma runs were earned.

Still, they were scored.

The Gaucho woes started with the second Petaluma batter, freshman Joe Brown, who looped a fly into center field that right fielder Connor Klemenok ranged far out of his designated area to reach, only to have the ball clank off his glove and to the turf.

It got worse for the Gauchos.

Joe’s older brother, Sam Brown, was thumped by a Sanchez pitch.

Jack Gallagher lined a sinking shot into center field that charging Gaucho middle fielder Jake McCoy got to but frustratingly dropped.

At that point, the inning should have been over. It wasn’t.

It just got uglier for the Gauchos as Mario Zarco hustled out a base hit. Gavin Ochoa worked for a walk and Sam Jacobs slapped a hard single up the middle for two runs that might have been three had Ochoa not been thrown out at the plate.

It still wasn’t over, Mark Wolbert singled and No. 9 hitter Mike Inglin was hit by a pitch before Garrett Lewis hit a fly ball that was caught to end the assault.

Petaluma pitcher Ochoa struggled with his control, walking five and hitting one in five innings. However, he manged to get the big out when it was needed.

He came up with a bases- loaded strikeout to escape the first inning; got a strikeout and a ground out with two on in the second; and benefited from a perfect peg by catcher Gallagher to nail a would-be base thief after the first batter in the third inning was hit with a pitch.

Casa Grande stranded six runners over the first three innings, but there was no stranding Cole Santander leading off the fourth. The Casa catcher lifted a monster shot to left field, carrying with it two questions — would it stay fair and would it conk a track athlete working out on the adjacent track? The answers were yes and no as Santander rounded the bases.

When Ochoa walked Julian Centero, Petaluma coach Jim Selvitella brought Julian Garahan in to relieve Ochoa.

The sophomore immediately dug himself a hole by throwing Klemenok’s bunt, pushed hard enough to resemble a double play, into center field.

Garahan got the dangerous Joe Lampe to pop up to Gallagher behind the plate, who made a clutch catch on a difficult play.

Then, it was Petaluma’s turn to suffer from erroritis. First, third baseman Zarco booted a routine grounder by Noah Bailey. That was followed by a dropped line drive by center fielder Joe Brown.

Through it all, Garahan kept throwing strikes, getting out of the inning on a fly to center corralled by Brown and a strikeout.

But, halfway through the sun-drenched game, the Gauchos had closed the Petaluma lead to 5-3.

They never got closer.

Petaluma second baseman Jacobs made a fine running grab on a blooper and converted it into a double play to thwart the Gauchos in the fifth. Two runners were left stranded by a strikeout and a pop-up in the sixth and the Gauchos went down without a base runner for the only time all afternoon in the seventh.

Sanchez finished a fine afternoon’s work for Casa in the fifth, and Peyton Baxter, helped by an infield double play, pitched a scoreless sixth.

Of Petaluma’s four hits, two were by Jacobs. Of Casa Grande’s matching four, two were by Santander.

Casa Grande coach Chad Fillinger said lack of practice and game time due to the heavy spring rains had little to do with the Casa Grande loss.

“We just beat ourselves,” he said. “We gave them a five spot and, give them credit, they held on.”

Fillinger was pleased with the pitching of Sanchez. “Those runs weren’t his fault,” he said. “We just dropped two catchable fly balls.”

Petaluma head coach Jim Selvitella was pleased with his young pitchers. “They are both sophomores,” he pointed out. “They had some troubles, but they got the big out win it was needed.

“This was a big win for us. It showed we are learning how to win.”