It wasn’t Senior Day at Santa Barbara’s Eddie Mathews Field, but it might as well have been.
In the opening game of a pivotal three-game series against Dos Pueblos, upperclassmen Danny Zandona, Collin Dewell and Spencer Fraker made it Santa Barbara’s day, leading the Dons to a 7-0 shutout on Tuesday.
Zandona struck out 10 in pitching his third shutout in a row; Dewell gave his teammate a lead to work with by blasting a mammoth two-run homer in the first inning and doubled home another run in the seventh; Fraker collected three hits and scored each time, as Santa Barbara took over sole possession of first place in the league at 8-0. The Dons are 17-4 overall.
Dos Pueblos (4-1, 14-5) suffered its first loss in league play.
The series shifts to Dos Pueblos for the next two games on Wednesday and Friday.
Zandona allowed eight hits (three of them by Michael Spiritosanto), but he was absolutely dominating with runners on base.
“If you think of one word to describe him, it’s poised,” said Santa Barbara coach Fred Warrecker
Zandona started the game by giving up two hits in the first inning but he pitched out of the jam, getting Kyle Richardson to hit into a force play at third base to end the inning.
“Danny shutting them down in the first inning was huge,” said Fraker.
In the fourth inning, with Spiritosanto at third and no outs, Zandona fanned the next three Charger batters, two on called third strikes.
The Chargers threatened to break the shutout in the seventh, putting runners at the corners with two outs. Zandona, however, got the last batter looking at strike three to end the game.
Zandona said he gets a little angry when runners to get on.
“I have to go out of the stretch, so I just try to pound the zone and try to get ahead of guys,”
Warrecker said before the series that winning at home was crucial for his club as it seeks its second straight league title and fourth in five years.
He couldn’t have asked for a better start from his offense. Fraker singled to right with one out and Dewell followed with his massive homer to right-center field off DP starter Joe Huthsing.
“It was just a 2-0 fastball that looked good, put a good swing on it and crushed it,” said the Arizona-bound Dewell.
Fraker started a three-run outburst in the third inning. He led off with a single, moved to second on a single by Dewell and reached third on a Kees t’Sas fielder’s choice. Pepe Gil walked to load the bases and Zandona drew a walk to bring Fraker home for a 3-0 lead.
“I’ve been hitting pretty well the last couple of games,” said Fraker. “I feeling really comfortable at the plate, focusing on going the opposite way, and really trying to stay inside the ball and try not to do too much with it.”
A sacrifice fly to center by Lucas Benenati scored t’Sas, with pinch runner Andrew Nagy (running for Gil) also tagging up and advancing to third. With Colin Eaton at the plate, Nagy and Zandona pulled off a double steal and Nagy scored before the Chargers could tag Zandona in a rundown for the final out of the inning.
DP coach Nate Mendoza let his team know that was it outplayed by Santa Barbara.
“I was very honest with them. I wasn’t going to sugar-coat it,” Mendoza said. “They were better than us in all three aspects today: They pitched better, played better defense and they were way better at the dish.
He was baffled by the lack of fire his club showed at the plate.
“Our approaches were like I’ve never seen them.” Mendoza said. “We had very bad approaches at the plate. It showed. They blanked us, they shut us out. My hat is off to (Santa Barbara), they played extremely well.
“Fortunately for us, it’s a three-game series,” he added. “We’re lucky, we get to go home and we get to play tomorrow.”
Asked about the home run. Mendoza said, “Dewell got a great piece on it. He kind of sparked their offense and got it going. I felt strongly today that whomever got ahead early was going to take that momentum through the game, and it looked like it. They grabbed that momentum early and they kept it. They never lost momentum the whole game.”
Santa Barbara loaded the bases in the fifth off DP reliever Luke Loggins, but he struck out the next batter to end the threat.
The Dons would get to Loggins for two runs the sixth, capitalizing on an infield error and more hits from Fraker and Dewell.
Between them, the Dons’ No. 2 and 3 hitters had six of the team’s nine hits.
“Fraker and Dewell were just nails for us today in that two-three hole,” said Warrecker. “You’re always in good shape if you’ve got guys back to back swinging as opposed to first and seventh.
“I’m very pleased. To shut them out … obviously, they’re a good team, 14-4 on the year and undefeated in league. It’s a good start to the week.
“We started off very well today with that two-run home run, and Danny’s not going to give up a run,” Warrecker added. “That’s the beginning and the end of a good story for us.”