Story by Linda Yun
Photos by Emiko Essmiller
Baseball ended its CIF run prematurely after losing 8-4 to the Santa Barbara Dons on Friday, May 5. Coming off a league title, the Tigers expected an easy showing in the first round of CIF – which quickly went south. The Tigers surrendered seven runs in the first three innings. Despite later efforts to equalize the score, the deficit was too great, and the Tigers comeback fell short.
The first inning was disappointing for the Tigers. Junior pitcher Nolan Adams started confidently for the Tigers on the mound, but quickly walked two Dons. Despite two strikeouts in the inning, the Tigers surrendered four runs.
South Pas struggled to find any runs of their own in the bottom of the first. Junior leadoff hitter Luke Riffle reached on an error. Senior Jason Yipp grounded out, advancing Riffle to second. Both junior Devin Robinson and senior Quinn Stirling hit solid line drives, but both were caught and no runs were scored.
The second inning did not look any more optimistic for the Tigers. Adams struck out multiple hitters and seemed to recover from a shaky first inning, but the Tigers’ batting lineup was set down one after the other, with junior Jesse Chavez being robbed of a hit on a ground ball up the middle. By the end of the second, the Tigers trailed 7-0.
The Tigers remained scoreless until the bottom of the third inning. With the bases loaded, junior Luke Riffle hit a single to bring fellow junior Elijah Garcia home, finally putting the Tigers on the scoreboard at 7-1.
The pace began to pick up in the top of the fifth inning, when senior Jack Holley replaced Adams on the mound and limited the damage of the Dons in tandem with senior catcher Ivan Becerra. Becerrawho shone on the defensive end with a strong block to prevent a last second run at home plate.
“I want to say that I did pretty [well] catching this year,” Becerra said humbly. “I threw a lot of guys out, and I think I really stepped it up this year as [both a player] and a leader out there.”
On the offensive, the Tigers began a rally, ending in a run. A single from Riffle drove home sophomore Raphi Hall to make another dent in the deficit. A passed ball on the Dons catcher brought Garcia home and made the score 8-3.
Holley came off the mound and handed the ball to senior Ben Petrillo, who pitched the top of the sixth short with consistent pitches. Riffle shone on defense, making impressive catches in the outfield and throwing out multiple Santa Barbara runners. Stirling led off the bottom for the Tigers and was afforded first base on a hit-by-pitch from the Dons, but no runs were scored and the score remained 8-3.
In the Tigers’ final push, Petrillo retired three straight Dons batters in an invigorating inning. Becerra stunned the crowd on both the home and visitors end with a leadoff triple, revitalizing their spirits in time for senior Jason Yipp to bring him home. Despite the team’s offensive effort, their last-minute efforts were not enough to recover from a lopsided start. The game ended 8-4, wrapping a melancholy bow around the Tigers’ illustrious RHL title.
“[Something we definitely should have came with] was energy,” head coach Jaime Garcia reflected. “Today we played three great innings at the end, but we should have done that for all seven.”
Despite losing the final game, the Tigers will celebrate their achievements this season with pride.
“We’re going to have a huge banquet,” Garcia added. “Being co-champions of league is definitely something worth celebrating.”
As for the departing seniors – Carlo Maling, Will Guy, Will Shin, Jude Felix, Yipp, Petrillo, Holley, Becerra, and Stirling – they will leave the diamond as critical contributors to the team.
“We’ll definitely be losing some crucial pieces, and the team will change a lot,” Riffle commented. “But we do have a lot of underclassmen that are ready to take their roles, and I think we’ll do just fine next year.”