PBB: Dons score early, hold off San Marcos in league opener

Santa Barbara High had outscored its five non-league opponents 40-1 going into Friday’s Channel League baseball opener against crosstown rival San Marcos.

The Dons started as if they were headed for another one-sided win, jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and leading 5-0 after four. But San Marcos kept battling and made a game of it before Santa Barbara prevailed, 5-2, at Eddie Mathews Field.

Santa Barbara improves to 6-0 on the season while San Marcos is 3-3.

“Our pitching stayed pretty consistent and that save us,” longtime Santa Barbara coach Fred Warrecker said.

Trevor Moropoulos allowed one hit in his four innings of work for the Dons.

Trevor Moropoulos allowed one hit in his four innings of work for the Dons.

Starter Trevor Moropoulos and reliever Marcus Tmur combined to give up four hits. The lefty Moropoulos (2-0) allowed only one hit in four innings of work. An infield error opened the door for the Royals in the fifth against Tmur. They scored twice with one out.

“We made only our third error of the year, but that led them in that inning when they scored their runs,” Warrecker said “That put a lot of pressure on Tmur because he had to throw out of a stretch for the whole inning instead of getting the first guy out and staying with the windup. Saying all that, you can see how easy it is to unravel.”

The Dons put pressure on San Marcos sophomore left-hander Ian Churchill early. Bryce Morison greeted him with a single to left and No. 2 hitter Dalton Schroeder reached base on a bunt single. Both runners moved up on a passed ball and scored on ground-ball outs by John Jensen and Daniel McKinney.

In the third, McKinney doubled down the left-field line and scored on a pair of wild pitches for a 3-0 lead.

The Dons’ defense ended a Royals’ threat in the fourth. With Blake Katsev on base, Nolan Cope hit a ball into the hole at first. Second baseman Carter Soto scrambled to get to the ball and fed Moropoulos hustling off the mound for the out at first. The next hitter, Sean Nakano-West, smashed a ball off Soto for the Royals’ first hit. Tony Garcia drew a walk to load the bases for Mason Metcalfe. Moropoulos came up big and got the Royals’ catcher line out to Carter.

“He’s been fairly hot for us,” San Marcos coach Jacob Pepper said of Metcalfe. “It was just a good pitch; it was a good changeup and he got it off the end of the bat. It could have gone either way.”

Santa Barbara responded with two runs in the fourth. Kevin Gowdy led off with a double down the left-field line and Soto was hit by a pitch. Sebastian Elizondo laid down a bunt up the third-base line and the Royals threw it away at third base, allowing Gowdy to score. Joe Arroyo followed with another terrific bunt up the third-base line and beat it out for a single to load the bases. Soto made it 5-0, scoring on a sacrifice fly to center by Morison.

“Bunting was good,” Warrecker said. “It was good little ball. That was big for us in that inning.”

Sophomore Ian Churchill got the start for San Marcos in the Channel League opener.

Sophomore Ian Churchill got the start for San Marcos in the Channel League opener.

Pepper agreed the bunts made a big difference.

“We didn’t execute on our bunt defense and that kind of hurt us a bit,” he said. “We only gave up 3-4 solid hits. Our guys are going to battle every time, but we got to execute to make sure we take advantage of the few runs we do get.”

Churchill showed great composure after the misplays on the bunts. He got a flyout and a strikeout to escape further damage.

“He’s kind of a loose guy and he was ready to go,” said Pepper of Churchill. “He got into a tough situation there but he battled out of it.”

The Royals made things interesting in the fifth. Anthony Sanchez reached base on an error at second and pinch hitter Derek Zylstra hit an opposite-field single to right to put runners at first and third. Zylstra stole second before Kyle Gonzalez singled in Sanchez to make it 5-1. Louie Shalhoob executed a sacrifice to score Zylstra for the second run off Tmur.

The Dons’ reliever then took command and induced Katsev into a ground out to third and fielded a hard shot up the middle by Cope to end the inning.

Austin Ricci was impressive for San Marcos in the last two innings, striking out three of the six hitters he faced. He walked one, but that baserunner was thrown out stealing by Metcalfe.

“Austin Ricci has been really good for us,” Pepper said. “He’s been working hard on his off-speed. We’re just trying to keep those hitters off balance. Those guys are good fastball hitters and they want to swing really hard, so we thought we’d come in soft in a way and we’d be OK.”

San Marcos…000 020 0 — 2 4 2

Santa Barbara…201 200 x — 5 6 1

Churchill, Ricci (5) and Metcalfe; Moropoulos, Tmur (5) and Elizondo. W—Moropoulos (2-0). L—Churchill.

2B—SB: Gowdy, McKinney

Santa Barbara's John Jensen beats the throw to Royals second baseman Anthony Sanchez.

Santa Barbara’s Daniel McKinney beats the throw to Royals second baseman Anthony Sanchez.