CERES — Central Catholic sophomore Travis Waara, usually a third baseman, played his first game at second base on Monday.
It sure looked like it in the first inning.
Waara booted a tailor-made double-play ball in the opening stanza that allowed two Ceres runners to score. But he made up for it in the seventh, making a highlight-reel, game-saving grab as the Raiders rallied to tie the score and then scored five in the ninth for an 11-6 win at Art McRae Field.
Both teams entered the game undefeated in Western Athletic Conference play with only this two-game set left in the regular season. The Raiders (20-4 overall, 11-0 WAC) can wrap up the crown and, more important, the league’s No. 1 playoff seed, when they play at 4 p.m. today at Central Catholic.
“You can’t hang your head or your whole game will get derailed,” Waara said. “You have to have a strong mental game.”
With the score tied in the bottom of the seventh, Ceres catcher Brett Conway led off with a single and first baseman Dylan Canatsy walked to push Conway into scoring position with no outs. Merrik Price was asked to sacrifice, but he couldn’t get a bunt down and struck out, the first strikeout of the game for a Central Catholic pitcher.
That brought up leadoff man Brad Bussard, who smashed a line drive to the right side. Waara dived to his left to snare the liner, then threw the ball to shortstop Jonathan Weatherred to complete the 4-6 double play.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s the toughest infielder I have,” Central Catholic coach Mike Glines said. “He’d been playing third base for us, but he has such good lateral movement we decided to move him.
“He’s tough. He’ll put his face in front of the ball.”
Had the ball gotten past Waara, Ceres (22-4, 10-1) almost assuredly would have scored – game over.
“(Waara) absolutely saved the game for them,” Ceres coach John Bussard said.
The game remained knotted 6-6 until the ninth, when Central broke it open.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Weatherred reached on an error that pushed across the go-ahead run. Kyle Costa then singled to plate two more, Brad Nightengale doubled to drive in Weatherred, and Costa scampered home on a wild pitch.
“It’s just been one of those seasons,” Glines said. “I don’t think there’s been a league game where we didn’t have to come from behind.”
Actually, the Raiders have trailed in seven of 11 WAC contests, but it still hammers home the point that Central Catholic is a resilient team. Still, Ceres could have won the game.
“We didn’t execute when we needed to execute,” Bussard said.
Will this loss affect the Bulldogs in today’s series finale?
“No,” Bussard said, offering an immediate response. “Because we’ve been resilient all year.”
Starting pitcher Alan Marquez said he doesn’t expect Monday’s loss to carry over.
“There were a couple of guys in the dugout with their heads hanging,” said Marquez, a senior. “I plan to get all my teammates together in the morning and talk to them.”
After Waara’s miscue made it 2-0 in the first, the Raiders tied the score in the third on an RBI double by Tazz Rodoni and a sacrifice fly by Ryan Vierra.
The Bulldogs reclaimed the lead with three in their half of the third. Brent Bussard doubled and scored on a balk, and Canatsy stroked a two-run single to make it 5-2.
Central Catholic made it a one-run deficit in the fourth thanks to a two-run homer by Weatherred.
The Bulldogs got the run back in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Izaiah Hernandez, but the Raiders tied the score in the seventh when Rodoni scored on a fielder’s choice and Sam Mundt scored on an error.