Offense carries Dons past surging Chargers in shootout three-game series

Austin Haller #2
Austin Haller gets the runner out at first base after further review by the umpires. Photo by Dominic Crenshaw

After a low scoring prior weekend, the Dons looked for production from their offense, which has consistently been the team’s strength.

Starting pitcher Jaxton Andeel knew that Santa Ana would show off their offensive prowess this weekend. 

“I know our bats are going to be hot next week,” said Andeel, after the first round of the playoffs.

His assessment was spot-on. In four games, the Dons scored 51 runs. They scored 35 runs in three games against Cypress. 

They won game one 12-5, but lost game two by a final of 10-9. 

In their sole loss of the series, the pitching struggles couldn’t be overcome.

Dons start off hot in game two

With momentum on their side from the first game, the Dons quickly scored four runs in the first.

After leadoff hitter Christian Thompson was hit by a pitch, center fielder Eddie Pelc came up and slapped a double down the left field line. Thompson, with blazing speed, rounded second and third, then scored at home without a relay throw.

Left fielder Mario Tostado followed up the double with an RBI single, making it 2-0.

After an Austin Haller single, second baseman Marc Schavone came up with two outs. Schavone roped a double over the shortstop and into the left centerfield gap. Both baserunners scored, making it 4-0.

Austin Haller and Mario Tostado are sent home after a double sent to left field by Mark Shavone, giving the Dons an early 4-0 lead. Photo by Dominic Crenshaw.

Chargers respond in bottom of the first, cut into lead

Pitcher James Showalter made the start for the Dons, but struggled early. After two straight doubles, the Chargers held runners at second and third with no outs.

The Chargers’ next batter crushed a single to left, scoring one. While rounding first in response to the relay throw home, the Charger was caught in a run down and tagged out. 

The damage wasn’t limited though.

The next batter up also hit a single, meaning the first four batters Showalter faced all had hits. The score was 4-2 at the end of the first, with a double play ending the inning.

Action didn’t pick up until the bottom of the third inning, where the Chargers once again orchestrated a rally.

After an infield single started off the inning, the Chargers flared a ball down the left field line. The crowd, announcer, and left fielder all thought the ball would land foul, yet it abruptly landed on the foul line. 

The lead runner hesitated before sprinting for third. His hesitation led to being thrown out at third, meanwhile the hitter settled into second. Showalter walked the next batter, then forced a ground ball to short. 

Defense defines the comeback effort

The Dons got the out at second, but an errant throw led to a safe runner at first and a run. It was now 4-3 Dons, but the momentum had shifted in favor of the Chargers.

The Chargers continued their momentum in the fourth. After holding the Dons scoreless in the top of the inning, they looked to tie the game up. After another infield single/errant throw combo, Cypress had runners at the corners with one out. 

Cypress bunted to the pitcher, who shoveled a pass home and got the out in a bang-bang play. 

The Cypress fans began hollering their displeasure at the umpire. However, it would only get worse from there. 

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A line drive to right field sent the runner from second home, in which the relay throw at home was in time. Both plays were really close, however they both seemed as though the Cypress runner had beaten the tag at the plate.

The Charger fans had enough. For the remaining five innings, they would express their anger at the umpire after every debatable call. They had seemingly taken over Don Sneddon field with their outcries.

Chargers pull ahead after fifth inning rally

For a third straight inning, Showalter struggled to record outs on his own. The first batter he faced in the fifth hit a towering home run over the right field fence, tying the game at four.

He then gave up two singles and a well struck line out to Thompson. However, the back breaker was a triple to right field, in which Cypress took its first lead, 6-4.

They followed up the triple with a bunt single, which scored the runner from third. 

Showalter’s day was done at the mound. In came Hauze Fragoso, who started against Santa Barbara City.

Cypress held a 7-4 lead and smelled blood in the water. In the bottom of the sixth, they once again benefited from an errant throw to first. 

The previous runner reached on a hit by pitch, then advanced to second on a groundout to first. The errant throw sent him home safely, making it 8-4.

Troy Kent responds with two home runs

Then, Troy Kent happened. 

In the top of the seventh, he followed up a leadoff walk by Tostado with a two run blast over right center fielder. It was now 8-6.

Mario Tostado battled through two foul balls until he eventually walked. Tostado started the late rally. Photo by Dominic Crenshaw

Cypress responded with a solo homer in the bottom of the inning, making it 9-6, however Kent wasn’t done.

With runners at second and third and two outs, Kent once again blasted a home run to right field, tying the game at nine. Kent had four home runs in the series. 

Dons drop game two, win series after game three blowout

Now that momentum was regained, the Dons sent out reliever CJ Brown. In the bottom of the eighth, Cypress responded with a hit by pitch and two straight singles to take a 10-9 lead and win the game.

However, the Dons bounced back to win the series and advance to the regional finals, as they won the final game 14-5.

Tostado led the team with three RBIs, three runs, three hits, and two walks in the series finale. 

Santa Ana looks ahead to the 3C2A SoCal Regionals against Fullerton College. SAC won two out of three earlier in the year.

Game one will be Friday, May 19, at 2:00. The Dons will host all three games at Don Sneddon Field.

The winner of that series will advance to state.


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