After an exhausting 12-inning loss to rival Alameda the night before, the Encinal baseball team could have been easy pickings for the ACCAL-leading Berkeley Yellowjackets on Thursday. But the Jets depleted pitching staff wasn’t a factor, as starter Jason Rivera threw a complete game for the 5-2 victory.
The loss was the first in ACCAL play for the ’Jackets, who looked frustrated at the plate all afternoon. Rivera didn’t throw very hard or have much on his breaking balls, but Berkeley (3-1 ACCAL) could only reach him for five hits.
“He wasn’t striking people out, but we just couldn’t get a hit when we needed it,” Berkeley head coach Tim Moellering said. “His pitches might just have looked a little too tempting, even though they weren’t always strikes.”
Berkeley ace Moses Kopner, on the other hand, was overpowering for much of the game, striking out six. But his own fielding mishaps did him in, as the Jets (3-2 ACCAL) exploded for four runs in the seventh inning. They loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a Kopner bobble on a sacrifice bunt. Up came Encinal catcher Jimmy Olson, whom Kopner had struck out in his first three at-bats. But Olson atoned by hitting a shot just inside the third base line for a bases-clearing double. Moellering lifted Kopner soon after, but reliever Sean Souders couldn’t stop the bleeding before right fielder Marcus Buckingham drove Olson home with a single.
A weary Rivera almost let the ’Jackets back in the game in the bottom of the seventh, as designated hitter Matt Toma started things off with a double. After a Paco Flores strikeout, right fielder Bennie Goldenberg walked. John Roper scored Toma with a fielder’s choice, and DeAndre Miller singled to bring the tying run to the plate in the person of Yani Teichner. But Teichner grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
A Kopner fielding error also contributed to the Jets’ only run before the final inning. Mike Jones started the fifth off with a single, and Eugene Smith laid down a sacrifice bunt. But Kopner couldn’t handle it, and Berkeley third baseman Robert Williams muffed another Encinal bunt to load the bases. Rivera brought Jones home with an RBI grounder, and Encinal had a 1-0 lead. Berkeley scratched back a run in the bottom of the sixth before the Jets blew the game open.
Moellering said the ’Jackets sloppy play could be attributed to being on spring break.
“Our lack of focus was evident in practice yesterday, and I think it carried over into the game today,” Moellering said. “A couple of those were good bunts that we couldn’t do anything about, but we have to make the fundamental play.”