Santa Ana secured a victory against Cypress College on Thursday, April 20, after a thrilling comeback in the eighth inning.
Early on, the Dons caught a break in the bottom of the third, where the action first picked up.
With no outs and outfielder Troy Kent on first, infielder Austin Haller popped up just in front of home plate. The Cypress catcher, first baseman, and second baseman all converged on a fly ball, but all lost it in the sun.
The ball dropped to the ground.
Haller attempted to reach second as the pop up dropped and was caught in a run down. With the fielders distracted by Haller, Kent took advantage. With a quick jump from first, he flew around the bases.
While on his way home, the Cypress throw down from second base sailed over the Cypress catcher, allowing Kent to score and Haller to advance to second base. The Dons scored the first run of the game to make it 1-0.
Outfielder Eddie Pelc later singled in the bottom of the fifth to score fellow outfielder Christian Thompson from second to extend the Dons lead to 2-0.
Mario Tostado tacked on to the lead later in the inning. He sent a double down the left field line that barely hugged the base. Pelc scored from second, making it 3-0.
The next batter, Haller, tripled down the right field line to score Tostado from second. He would then score on a sacrifice fly courtesy of Mikey Rocha to extend the Dons lead to 5-0.
“I was looking for a pitch to hit. I got behind in the count, 1-2, and then he just threw me a hanging curveball so I just hit it down the line,” said Haller. “As soon as I hit it I knew it could be three.”
Starting pitcher Hauze Fragoso was scoreless through the fifth inning. Coming into the sixth, Fragoso had allowed just two hits while striking out five, tied for the most in a single game this season for the freshman.
“Everything felt pretty on. I felt like I could control all four pitches today,” said Fragoso. “I was just hitting my spots and everything worked out pretty well.”
The first Cypress batter of the sixth walked. The following batter belted a two-run home run over the right field fence. Cypress had cut the lead down to 5-2.
Fragoso was relieved with no outs in the sixth by freshman right hander C.J. Brown. Brown would retire the next three Charger batters in order.
Cypress came back with a vengeance in the seventh. They quickly loaded the bases.
The next Cypress batter came up with two outs and hit a long fly ball down the left field line that landed just fair. The bases cleared while the batter reached second. Cypress had tied the game at five runs apiece.
On what would have been the third out of the inning, Don’s third baseman Mathew Dobson fielded a ground ball and threw down to first base. The ball skipped under the glove of Haller at first base, allowing the runner from second to score and Cypress to take their first lead of the game, 6-5.
The Dons were not distraught.
“We’re never really out of the game,” said Haller. “It doesn’t really matter what the score is until after all nine innings. Even if we’re down throughout the game we still have a chance to come back and win. I just love this team and the resilience that we have is just amazing.”
In the eighth, Santa Ana had runners at first and second with no outs. Outfielder Jimmy De Anda was hit by a pitch in an 0-2 count to load the bases. Michael Dobson, the Dons next batter, showed patience in the big spot. He walked on a full count to force the runner home and tie the game back at six.
With the bases still loaded, Thompson came up and poked a single under the glove of the diving Cypress second baseman. Two runners came in to score and Santa Ana regained the lead late in the eighth. The score was 8-6.
“First pitch I see in the zone I’m trying to get a good swing on it, if I get a good swing and put it in play, that’s a run,” said Thompson. “Infield’s in, I’ve got to hit the ball hard. I got in position to swing early and I just drove it through the zone.”
There were still no outs in the inning with runners on first and second.
Mario Tostado added an insurance run with one out in the inning after a walk loaded the bases once again. Tostado would hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score the runner from third.
Hard-throwing freshman James Showlater came in to pitch in the bottom of the eighth. Showalter shut down Cypress the following two innings, striking out three of the six batters he faced. The Dons held their 9-6 lead through a clean ninth frame.
The win is Santa Ana’s third straight.
“This series was big. We come into it tied with those guys [Cypress.] You win two games, you got the hammer when it comes to playoff seeding if we end up tied at the end of the year. Now we have a team game lead so at least in the worst case we come out of it a game up on them,” said Manager Tom Nilles.
The Dons’ record improves to 24-12 overall and 11-6 in conference play. With little more than a week left in the regular season, Santa Ana is third in the Orange Empire Conference.
Santa Ana concludes their three game series against Cypress College on Saturday, April 22 at Cypress College at noon.