Feuer, Dons narrowly escape with 4-3 win over Royals

A couple of months ago, Gavin Feuer wasn’t sure if his bad elbow would allow him to pitch at all in his senior season at Santa Barbara High. That thought is long gone now, as he found himself on the mound in a nail-biting situation at rival San Marcos on Friday.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Feuer got San Marcos’ Jimmy Brakka to ground out to first as the Dons held on to a 4-3 victory in the rubber match of the season series. First baseman Trey Barrett initially bobbled the ball, but scooped it up just in time to get it to Feuer, who was covering the base.

“I couldn’t think. I would have screwed myself up if I had thought about it. I just had to stare at the glove and throw. That was really the only way out of it,” said Feuer of his mindset during the at-bat.

Royals first baseman Jimmy Brakka waits for the throw to get Joey Gonzales.

[nggallery id=22]Feuer threw the ball down in celebration, while Brakka threw his helmet down in frustration. San Marcos (8-9, 1-4), the only team to have beaten the Dons (14-1-1, 5-1) this year, had missed a golden opportunity to walk off with another win.

Speaking of wasted opportunities, the Dons left the bases loaded in three different innings and stranded 14 runners. But a solo home run by junior Collin Dewell in the top of the seventh gave Feuer an insurance run that he ended up needing.

Feuer, a senior captain, entered the game with two outs in the fifth and the Dons leading 3-2. Both San Marcos runs came on a two-run bomb by Payton Moore, and San Marcos was threatening to tie with a runner at third and two out. Feuer, a lefty, relieved right-handed starter Kees t’Sas in order to move switch-hitting Royals slugger Riley Moore over to the right side of the plate.

He got Moore to ground out to third and end the threat.

“I’m glad I get to face him when he’s hitting righty, because he’s a great left-handed hitter. I mean, I’m sure he’s a great right-handed hitter too, but I definitely seen him mash left handed, so I felt fortunate,” said Feuer.

After an uneventful sixth (other than a great defensive play at first base by Brakka in the top of the inning), Dewell hit his dinger — his second in as many games — and set the stage for Feuer to close the door. But Feuer, who was making only his third appearance back from the injury, didn’t make it easy on himself.

In Tuesday’s win against the Royals, he came in and threw eight consecutive balls before settling down and closing the door. Luckily for him he had a big cushion to work with, but that wasn’t the case on Thursday.

After striking out the first Royal he faced, Feuer gave up a single to Lino Reveles, who proceeded to advance to second on a passed ball. Anthony Patolo and Shane Moore followed with singles of their own as Reveles came around to score and cut the Dons lead to 4-3. Next up was, you guessed it, big Riley Moore with a chance to tie the game or even win it with one stroke of the bat.

Feuer was able to get the San Marcos star to ground out to short, leaving runners on second and third with two out. Up came San Marcos’ starting pitcher, Nick Stathopoulos, who entered the game hitting .425. The Dons walked him intentionally to load the bases and bring up Brakka, a .325 hitter.

The count went full and Brakka fouled off what would have probably been called ball four before grounding out.

“Both the last two games have been kind of heart-stoppers in terms of his relief,” said assistant coach Mike Cooney of Feuer. “You can think of other relievers in the Major Leagues who have done that. They come in and put a couple of guys on — even Mariano Rivera is famous for putting a couple on and then getting out of the inning without giving up a run. I think Gavin’s got some real courage, and he’s a senior and deserves to be able to play.”

Stathopoulos took the loss but was a warrior on the mound. Both he and t’Sas had shutouts through four innings, but Stathopoulos started to struggle in the fifth, as Jack Crummer’s leadoff single was followed by a sac bunt, double, single, double and two walks. Reliever Shane Wieland, who started the game in left field, came out due to an injury earlier in the game and Royals coach Rob Crawford decided to leave Stathopoulos in the game. He got out of the inning having allowed three runs, and recharged to pitch a hitless sixth.

Santa Barbara remains alone atop the Channel League, while San Marcos is down but not out at 1-4 in league play. There are three playoff spots available in the league.

“I was proud of our guys. We battled incredibly well, and they had runners all over the place but we kind of held the fort,” said Crawford. “Both sides played a great game, and the fact that somebody had to lose is a tough one.”


Santa Barbara…000 030 1 — 4  12  1

San Marcos…000 020 1 — 3  8  0

t’Sas, Feuer (5) and Eaton. Stathopoulos, PMoore (7) and RMoore.

2B — SB: Gniadek, Barrett, t’Sas. HR — SB: Dewell (7th inn., solo), SM: PMoore (5th inn., one on).