Mustangs use small ball to hang onto league lead

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St. Vincent pushed across the winning run with a small-ball rally in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat visiting Sonoma Academy, 3-1, in front of a Senior Day crowd on a sun-baked Tuesday afternoon. The narrow victory protects a one-game lead for the Mustangs in the tight North Central League II baseball chase.

The Mustangs (7-0) loaded the bases after freshman Dante Antonini roped a single into the outfield to get the rally started. A walk and a bunt single followed, loading the bases with no outs against Coyote starter Nathan Becker.

Becker was replaced by left-handed reliever Ben Weaver, who plunked Ryan Nalducci with a pitched ball to force in the game winner. The Mustangs got a little cushion when a second run crossed the plate on a sacrifice fly.

Nathan Sterling started on the mound for the Mustangs and got through the first two innings with the teams tied at 1-1. Sterling gave up one run in the opening frame on two Coyote base hits.

The Mustangs almost got the run back in the bottom of the first inning, but lead-off batter Coleton Cristiani was gunned down at third base on a perfect throw from center field to stall the potential rally.

St. Vincent bounced back in the bottom of the second on three infield base hits after AJ Fetter got things started with a checked-swing single. Hits by Nalducci and Cristiani moved the line along.

Strong-armed right hander Trent Free silenced the bats of the Coyotes from the third inning to the finish to pick up the victory. Free recorded 12 consecutive outs, including striking out the side in the top of the fifth inning.

“Trent had everything going,” said a pleased Mustang coach Stan Switala. “He got a lot out of his fast ball, and his curve ball was breaking well. It was our plan to use Trent in long relief all season, but we haven’t always gone with it.”

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