Bob Mangran, Saddleback High School baseball coach, was so moved by his team's one-run lead over University in the fifth inning, that he turned to them and yelled, "Hey, let's hit around this inning!"
However, the Roadrunners didn't seem very excited or confident about their chances against the Trojans, who came into the game tied with Estancia for the Sea View League lead.
It's been a long season for Saddleback.
Before the season started, Saddleback discovered one of Orange County's top players, Leonard Damian, was leaving the Roadrunners to transfer to Canyon High. Without Damian, the Roadrunners, who made the playoffs last season, had won only three game as of two weeks ago. They've lost one-run games all season, which is enough to make players believe if something can go wrong, it will.
Although Saddleback wasn't inspired, neither was University (5-2), which committed four errors in the fifth inning and allowed five unearned runs. The Roadrunners won the game, 9-7, Wednesday and righted a season that had seemingly gone all wrong.
"Earlier this year nobody gave us a chance," Mangran said. "But with this win we're 4-3 in league and in third place. We were losing so many close games in the begining of the year, it was hard for these kids to stay up."
Perhaps touched by this tale of woe, the University defense self destructed. The Trojans commited eight errors and threw three wild pitches.
The Trojans were especially kind in the fifth inning. The University defensive play looked as if it were directed by Mack Sennett.
With two outs, Roadrunner starting pitcher Jeff Rowe reached base on an error by third baseman Mark Stride. After Myron Butler followed with a walk, shortstop Nick Santa Cruz hit his second home run of the season.
You'd think three unearned runs would be enough. But on this day the Trojan charity knew no bounds. Alex Arceo and Hector Cruz both reached on errors and number nine hitter Victor Rossano was walked on four pitches. With the bases loaded, Robert Ochoa finally hit a ball that a University fielder fielded cleanly. Trojan second baseman Gino Antano gloved the ball, planted to throw . . . and then fell on his chewing tobacco. One run scored as he fell. Another as he attempted in vain to get Ochoa at first.
"I know they (University) made a few mistakes, but our guys were always hustling to take advantage," Mangran said. "They never quit. They just keep pouring it on and pushing the other team until they make a mistake."
Saddleback got another run in the sixth, but University got three runs to close to, 9-6, going into the seventh.
It took only two pitches before the Trojans trailed by only two. Catcher Jeff Baker homered to left and the score was, 9-7. Brett Howard followed with a single but was thrown out attempting to steal second. The Trojans had stolen five consecutive bases against Saddleback before Howard's attempt failed. After a walk and a single put runners at first and second, Mangran pulled Rowe and inserted senior Steve Delgado.
Delgado got Antano to hit into a fielders choice but walked to load the bases when he passed Steve Connors. But Delgado got his second save of the season when Dave Huegy hit into a force play at second base.
In other Sea View League action:
Newport Harbor 13, Woodbridge 2--Joey James' two-run single sparked a four-run second inning that broke the game open at Woodbridge. Manny Adams and Chuck McGavran hit home runs for the Sailors (5-2, 9-8). Jeff Stoddard had a solo homer in the third for the Warriors (2-5, 6-9).
Laguna Beach 6, Corona del Mar 3--Freshman Danny Lane had a three-run double to help the Artists to the win at Laguna Beach. Rex Reasor had a solo homer in the Artists' two-run first inning. Laguna Beach added four runs in the third. The Sea Kings scored all three runs in the fifth inning. In Angelus League action:
Bishop Amat 10, Mater Dei 4--The Lancers upset previously unbeaten Mater Dei at Bishop Amat. The Monarchs, ranked No. 1 in Orange County, led, 4-0, after the first inning, but gave up two runs in the third, fourth and fifth innings to trail, 6-4.
Mike Gorman led off the fifth with a triple and then scored on a throwing error to give the Lancers (6-2 in league) the lead for good. Mario Torres singled home the other run in the fifth for Bishop Amat, which scored four in the sixth to seal the victory. Torres led the Lancers' 12-hit attack with a 3 for 4 day, including three singles. Three Lancers had two hits each.
In other Angelus League action:
St. Paul 8, Servite 1--The Swordsmen (3-5 league) took the lead on a two-run third inning and never gave it up en route to a victory over the Friars (4-4) at Servite. The Friars' only run came in the seventh on an Everett Musselman home run.
In Freeway League action:
Sunny Hills 4, Sonora 1--Pitcher Paul Abbott won his seventh game of the season as the Lancers (8-0 in league) defeated the Raiders (3-5), 4-1 at Sonora. Abbott also scored the Lancers' first run off a David Wackerman RBI in the second innning.