Preps

Friday, Apr 26 2013 10:36 PM

Eagles rally past Taft, close in on SSL title

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    BCHS Jake Thompson shows the umpire he still has the ball after making a tag on Taft High runner Austin Pendergrass in their Friday afternoon game. He was called out.

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  2. 2 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    BCHS Jake Thompson appears to fly into 3rd superman style for a triple in their game against Taft High.

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  3. 3 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Taft High runner Austin Pendergrass appears to be tagged by BCHS Hayden Kuchta but was called safe by the official who was on the field.

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  4. 4 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    With the sun on his eyes BCHS right fielder Ryan Unruh is able to make the catch against Taft High in their Friday afternoon game.

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  5. 5 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Taft High runner Austin Pendergrass slides into 2nd under the tag of Hayden Kuchta from BCHS.

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  6. 6 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The throw to BCHS catcher comes in high allowing Taft High runner Steven Gee to score in their Friday game.

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  7. 7 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    BCHS runner Andrew Heideman slides into 2nd base as the throw from the outfield comes late to Steven Gee.

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  8. 8 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    The wind kicks up a bit at the Taft vs Bakersfield Christian High baseball game turning an umbrella inside out briefly. The game was played at BCHS.

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  9. 9 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    BCHS Ricky Sottile turns the corner at 3rd and heads for home to score a run against Taft High Friday. BCHS won the game 8-6.

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  10. 10 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    BCHS Jake Thompson holds on to the ball after a collision at home plate with Taft High runner Austin Pendergrass in their Friday afternoon game. Pendergrass was called out.

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  11. 11 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Taft High pitcher, Anthony Rodriguez, left, and catcher Kyle Adkins discuss their plan of attack in their game against BCHS Friday afternoon. BCHS won the game 8-6.

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  12. 12 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    BCHS Jake Thompson hits the skids and arrives safe at 3rd hitting a triple in their game against Taft High Friday.

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  13. 13 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    BCHS Hayden Kuchta can't believe the safe call at 2nd base because he thought he had tagged out the Taft High runner.

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  14. 14 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Ryan Unruh of BCHS is out at 3rd as Taft High's Zack Brown fires to 1st for a double play in their Friday afternoon game.

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  15. 15 of 15

    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    BCHS coach Jason Smith has a friendly chat with an official on a call during their game with Taft High.

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BY ZACH EWING Californian staff writer zewing@bakersfield.com

It was, by all objective measures, not a good situation for Bakersfield Christian's baseball team Friday, down big early to South Sequoia League rival Taft with Wildcats ace Steven Gee waiting to pitch the final three innings.

But BCHS stayed positive, settled down and came up with an enormous rally and 8-6 victory over Taft that all but clinches the SSL title for the Eagles after a 5-4 win in Taft on Tuesday.

"These were two really big wins," BCHS coach Jason Smith said. "Taft is a good ballclub, and we knew it would be tough."

Trailing 5-1 after two sloppy innings, the Eagles rallied for six runs in the bottom of the third on the strength of six consecutive hits. It started with Ricky Sottile's stand-up triple and everything possible going wrong for Taft -- two fly balls to right field lost in the sun, a bloop single, an error on a dribbler to third base that tied the game, then an infield hit that put BCHS ahead after two Taft infielders tripped over each other trying to make the play.

"We gave them way too many outs," Taft coach Anthony Reed said. "It was a circus out there in that third inning. There were six or seven plays that could have been outs. If we make those plays, we might take them out easy."

As it is, Taft (21-4, 8-2 SSL) will have to hope BCHS (16-9, 8-0) loses at least two of its final four games -- but the Eagles will be heavily favored against Arvin and Chavez, their remaining opponents.

"It's only been two weeks since we've had our full team healthy and here," Smith said, "so it's coming together for us. We're playing and pitching well."

An error and a wild pitch brought home two Taft runs in the first inning, and the Wildcats added three in the second on a Danny Romo double and singles from Anthony Rodriugez and Kyle Adkins. They led 5-1 heading to the bottom of the third, and Gee -- a Cal State Bakersfield signee who also has significant MLB draft interest as a pitcher -- could pitch as many as three innings after throwing seven on Tuesday.

But that's when BCHS got busy. Ryan Unruh, who went 3-for-4, followed Sottile's triple with an RBI single. Austin Huckaby and Jake Thompson each brought hom runs with singles, and the inning quickly became a game-changer.

"The trick is to only go after one or two (runs) at a time," Unruh said. "We knew there was a long way to go. Once we got going, it was just a domino effect. Then the momentum shifts to pitching and defense."

BCHS starter Spud Heideman, who suffered through some ineffectiveness and bad luck early, rebounded nicely. He finished with a complete game and seven strikeouts, allowing just one run on four hits in the final five innings.

"It's really important to keep grinding no matter what," Heideman said. "I can't give up on the team, and defense really got dialed in after those first two innings."

Gee struck out two in two scoreless relief innings, and he was 2-for-3 with four stolen bases and three runs.

Reed said the Wildcats still had much to play for, reminding his team after the game of the 2011 season, in which Taft swept Bakersfield Christian but watched the Eagles came back to win the Central Section Division IV title.

"We just have to keep that mentality, to keep looking forward," Reed said.

But on Friday, a chance at a league title might have slipped away from Taft. Trailing by two, the Wildcats stranded two runners in the sixth inning, and Heideman set them down 1-2-3 in the seventh, thanks in part to a beautiful play in the hole at shortstop by Hayden Kuchta.

"We have a solid senior class," Smith said. "These guys were all role players on the 2011 Valley championship team, and they've sort of adjusted to, 'I'm the guy now. I'm not a role player anymore.' It's pretty fun around here right now."

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