Propelled by outstanding pitching, the Dons edged out a tight 2-1 victory in their first game of the 2023 playoffs, against the Roadrunners of College of the Desert.
Starting pitcher Hauze Fragoso turned in a clean first inning, striking out one batter with his breaking ball.
In the top of the second inning, freshman Mathew Dobson made a clutch play on a soft ground ball to prevent a runner on third from scoring. He delivered a hard throw down to first to get the out. This play proved to be vital for the Dons, as their offense remained relatively quiet throughout the afternoon.
In the third, Fragoso allowed a double with one out. The next batter would chop a slow ground ball to shortstop Mikey Rocha. His throw to first was low, skipping off the glove of the first baseman.
The runner from second advanced on the ground ball and scored due to the error at first. Desert took the lead, 1-0.
Fragoso would contain the rest of the inning and strand one runner.
Fragoso dominated the game with his off speed pitches. His long, arcing curveball baffled Desert batters. He collected five strikeouts on the day, tied for his highest single-game total of the season.
“I felt great today, my pitches were feeling really great, my curveball especially. I just felt like it was moving a lot more and I felt in command the whole game,” said Fragoso.
From his perspective behind the plate, sophomore catcher Mario Tostado saw Fragoso’s dominance firsthand.
“He was rolling. Everything was going, everything for a strike. He was doing really good, just shoving,” said Tostado.
In the bottom of the third, center fielder Eddie Pelc doubled deep into the left-center field gap. Tostado followed him and reached first after taking a pitch off the foot. Then, Troy Kent walked to load the bases.
Though the bases were loaded with only one out, the Dons failed to capitalize on the bases loaded opportunity.
In the fourth inning, freshman Jimmy De Anda sent a long drive into the right-center field gap, a mirror image to the left-center gapper that his fellow outfielder Eddie Pelc slugged in the previous inning.
The ball rolled out to the warning track as De Anda slid easily into third base.
“It’s my first playoff game… so I was really excited. I was competing with some guys out in left, so I knew that if I wanted to stay in left field, I had to do something special,” De Anda said. “Pick up the guys in the times that I need to, and that’s pretty much what I did.”
Dobson sent a sacrifice fly out to right field. De Anda tagged up from third to score the first Santa Ana run of the game and tie the game at one run apiece.
Entering the eighth, Dobson showed off his arm once again. He ran down an erratic ground ball and fired sharply to catch the speeding Roadrunner at first, for the first out of the inning.
Fragoso’s devastating curveball made a statement again in the eighth. He struck out two of the three batters he faced, both of the strikeout victims whiffing on the breaking pitch for strike three. Fragoso pitched through eight innings, the longest outing of his Santa Ana career, on 104 pitches.
“This was the longest I’ve gone [in a game], I was pretty proud,” said Fragoso.
Headed into the bottom of the eighth, the score stayed knotted at one apiece.
Tostado led off the bottom of the eighth. With the Dons desperately in need of runs, he hit a mammoth drive far over the left-center field fence.
His solo shot put the Dons ahead 2-1 and gave them their first lead of the game in a critical moment.
“It was a tight game. We weren’t really getting anything going. I was just trying to get on base and I ended up getting into a ball,” said Tostado.
Right hander Joey Iglesias came in the ninth to close the game.
Hauze Fragoso’s final line is eight innings pitched, three hits, five strikeouts and one unearned run.
Iglesias came in and shut the door with a scoreless frame.
The win was a stellar way for the Dons to open the best-of-three series. They need one more win against College of the Desert to win the series
Game two of the series is Saturday, May 5, at 11:00 a.m.
If necessary, game three will be played immediately after.
“We want to close this thing out. Hopefully we only play one game and get out of here early and move on to the next series,” said Tostado.