The power balance in the Channel League continued to shift as Dos Pueblos defeated Santa Barbara 9-4 on Friday and completed its first sweep of the Dons since 2009.
Nolan Soto pitched six and one-third innings and kept a shutout all the way until the seventh against Santa Barbara, who has won five of the last six league titles. The one championship the Dons missed out on was in 2009, which the Chargers went on to win after blanking Santa Barbara in league competition.
The victory also ensured that Dos Pueblos would stay a half-game ahead of Buena in the standings.
“It was good to get a win today to keep that Channel League lead over Buena,” Soto said. “And it feels good to sweep SB whenever you can do that.”
Dos Pueblos broke the game open with a wild series of events in the top of the second inning.
Brett Patton led off and was hit by a pitch from Santa Barbara’s Tanner Guerra. Patton then stole second and advanced to third on a bunt by Anthony Spiritosanto, who beat out the throw for a single. Then, Dylan Rohde cracked a double to left field to score Patton, and Guerra hit Daniel Vickers with a pitch to load the bases.
Dos Pueblos kept the heat on Guerra, and James Savage blasted a pitch to the right-field fence and came a few feet from a grand slam, but the ball dropped just short. The Charger runners held their positions in case the ball was caught, and the play ended up as a long single. Guerra was then able to get strike out Ben York, and Soto helped out his own cause with a sacrifice fly to push the score to 3-0.
With two outs, things took a turn for the worse for the Dons. Gabe Speier hit a ground ball into the outfield, which was collected and tossed to second baseman Kenny Crawford. Crawford saw Vickers take a wide turn around third and made a heads up play by flipping the ball over to the corner, catching Vickers in a pickle. Dons catcher Max St. John chased Vickers back to third, but when making the throw to tag out the runner, he hit Vickers and the ball rolled back into the outfield. The error scored Vickers and Savage, and Speier sneaked over to second.
Joe Huthsing then came up and singled to bring Speier home, which completed the scoring in the wild six-run inning for Dos Pueblos, which featured 10 batters and five hits.
“That inning was nightmarish,” said Santa Barbara coach Fred Warrecker, lamenting that the Dons could have gotten out of the inning with just one run allowed.
With a commanding lead, Soto and the defense continued to dominate.
“Nolan was just strong for us, really strong,” Chargers head coach Nate Mendoza said. “The defense was playing behind him for sure.”
Warrecker agreed with his counterpart’s assessment of the Dos Pueblos defense, and singled out York, who finished the game with seven assists.
“I thought, on their part, that the shortstop was outstanding today,” the Dons coach said.
The Chargers were able to add to their lead in the fourth inning with an RBI-single by Hutshsing, who finished the day going 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
In the fifth, York brought in a run with sacrifice fly, and Soto continued to give himself more of a cushion with an RBI-single. Soto went 2-3 from the plate and batted in two runs.
Facing a 9-0 deficit, the Dons refused to quit and jumped on a tired Soto in the seventh inning.
Kees t’Sas led off with a double for Santa Barbara, and he was brought home on a double by Johnny Brontsema. Peter Ghersen had an RBI as pinch hitter, then Zach Torres had a base knock to score the Dons’ third run of the game. The run was enough to convince Mendoza to pull Soto.
“My arm didn’t feel as great as the beginning so I just tried to do what I could,” Soto said.
Dane Short stepped in for the Chargers and gave up one more run, but was able to close out the game.
“I told the kids, that’s why we don’t sit on a six-run lead cause you just never know in baseball what happens,” Mendoza said.
Tanner Guerra suffered his first loss of the season in the wild game.
Other highlights for Dos Pueblos included Spiritosanto’s stat-line of 2-3 at the plate with a run scored, and Rohde, who also went 2-3, but scored two runs and had an RBI double.
Santa Barbara will wrap up Channel League play next week with games against Ventura on Tuesday and Thursday.
The Chargers will play Buena on Tuesday and Thursday of next week, and the result will likely determine this year’s Channel League champion.
DOS PUEBLOS 9, SANTA BARBARA 4
DP 060 120 0 – 9 13 3
SB 000 000 4 – 4 6 3
DP – Soto, Short (7), and Huthsing. SB – Guerra, Crawford (4), and St. John.
2b: DP – Rohde SB – t’Sas, Brontsema
WP – Soto. LP – Guerra (3-1)