Baseball averts loss with final play

By Tiana Hunter and Dan Gudino

Baseball bounced back with a walk-off win at home yesterday over Rio Hondo College, 6-5.

El Camino defeated the Huskies 11-3 and 5-0 on Thursday and Saturday.

In the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, sophomore right fielder Kyle Francis reached for a pitch outside the strike zone and hit a sacrifice fly ball to right field, scoring sophomore center fielder Morgan Lomax.

There were no runs Saturday until the bottom of the second inning when El Camino’s sophomore centerfielder, Noah Barba hit a groundball to second base bringing in sophomore first baseman Angel Mora scoring one for El Camino.

ELAC tried to keep up by getting batters out, but they were outplayed and El Camino’s offense was too good.

Two crucial errors were made at the bottom of the fourth inning during Saturday’s game that gave El Camino a lead in the game.

The first error made by freshman first baseman Thomas Acuna who missed the throw and caused El Camino’s sophomore designated hitter Ryan Eastburn to get on second base. This led to an RBI from sophomore center fielder Noah Barba, making the score 2-0, El Camino up. The second error Saturday was by sophomore right fielder Kyle Francis who fumbled a hit by El Camino sophomore third baseman Hunter Lewis, causing Barba, who was on second base to score again for El Camino.

Mistakes were made by El Camino that helped ELAC players get on base, but they couldn’t get past third base or score without production at the plate. Another RBI by El Camino’s sophomore catcher Trevor Casanova and a home run hit by sophomore shortstop Darian Sylvester would keep the score up for El Camino.

Even though ELAC kept the score low for El Camino by striking out seven of their batters, they were stuck on the offensive side. In the seventh inning a misplay would also cost ELAC and gave El Camino another run, making the score 6-0. El Camino sophomore designated hitter Ryan Eastburn scored the final run on a throwing error by ELAC freshman third baseman Joaquin Castillo.

“It wasn’t a good situation, not enough mental toughness and making adjustments. Getting shut out seven-zip, making four errors and striking out three times with the bases loaded wasn’t a good situation. We just have to bounce back and get ready to play Rio Hondo next week,” said ELAC baseball head coach James Hines.

Yesterday’s game was an exciting walk-off victory. Lomax has the most stolen bases on the team with 15, and ranks fifth among all players in the state. His baserunning got ELAC in position for the win, first by taking a fastball that hit his back putting Lomax on the ground in agony. He later got up and stole second base, which led to him scoring the winning run.

Lomax tagged third base as Francis’s fly ball was caught, ran home and dodged the tag from Rio Hondo’s catcher as he went underneath the glove, sliding head first for the win.

“Speed has always been my strength. I knew as soon as I got hit by a pitch, we were walking (off),” Lomax said.

Francis leads the team in doubles with eight, is one of three players with a home run and finished 2 for 4, with a triple, three RBIs, and struck out twice.

“I knew what he (Rio Hondo’s pitcher) kept throwing. He kept going with sliders away. I knew if he kept going with the same pitches, I would find one. I got one that I reached for and we won,” Francis said.

Francis is getting back into the swing of things because he took a year off last year due to elbow surgery to his right arm. He’s a redshirt sophomore from Redmond, Washington.

ELAC sophomore relief pitcher Richard Escobedo had a notable performance, helping ELAC out of crucial situations in the bottom of the third, with the bases loaded and struck out all hitters in the fourth.

Escobedo captured his fourth win as he pitched three and a half innings, struck out four, walked three and allowed two runs on four hits in relief.

On-and-off mist and a light rain threw off Escobedo, who struggled on the mound in the top 6th when the game was stopped for a rain delay.

The mound was patched up with sand for footing. Escobedo, on three different occasions, had to step off the mound as a light drizzle came down and had to scrape off mud from his cleats.

“Its different for each player. Rain affects players differently. It depends on the player, whether its grip, footing and mentally. We weren’t hurt as badly by the rain. We kept doing what we do best and that’s grind out each game,”  Hines said.

ELAC is now 12-11 overall this season, snapping a two-game losing streak to El Camino and moves two a three-way tie for the North division of the South Coast Conference.

“Its cliche and coaches speak, but we really have to take things one game at a time. The ultimate goal is to get into the playoffs. What needs to improve is being able to duplicate today’s energy into the season. Team chemistry and finding the energy to encourage, and play at a high level is something we need to work on,” Hines said.

Hines is in his 19th season as head coach of baseball, and captured his 400th victory at East L.A. last Thursday against El Camino College-Compton Center.

BATTER’S BOX—ELAC sophomore outfielder Morgan Lomax steps into a swing in the ninth inning, before being hit by a
pitch on his way to scoring the winning run in yesterday’s 6-5 win over Rio Hondo College. C/N Diego Linares

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