By Bill Tamburrino
If week one is any indication, runs will be hard to come by and pitching will be the key in the Palomar League.
Ramona’s Bulldog baseball team got three excellent pitching performances, but the hurlers didn’t get much help from the Bulldog hitters as Ramona went one and two against Westview High School (14-5, 2-1) in the first series of Palomar League action. Ironically the Bulldogs outhit the Wolverines in the series and both teams only scored three runs apiece. The Dawgs are now 8-9 on the season and are 1-2 in league play.
Beau Sulser started Palomar League action by pitching the first no-hitter of his varsity career to post a 2-0 victory over the Wolverines. Sulser was in complete control until the bottom of the seventh inning and then the Dartmouth-bound righthander got a lot of help from his freshman centerfielder, Gage Canning.
Sulser drove in a run in the top of the first inning when he drove in Canning with an RBI single. That was all that Sulser would need for the win. The Dawgs added an insurance run in the sixth inning when sophomore Kyle Wilson delivered a clutch RBI single to drive in Sulser. Jackson Willeford had Ramona’s only other hit in the game.
In the seventh inning, with two outs and two on (a walk and a hit batter) Sulser threw a pitch that was ripped to deep center field.
“I thought that it was a game-winning double,” he said. “I didn’t think that there was any way that Gage could get to the ball or cut it off for a single and hold them to one run.”
“I knew that I had to make the play — not only to save Beau’s no-hitter but to win the game,” said freshman centerfielder Greg Canning. “I knew where the ball was headed and I ran as fast as I could to get there. I was lucky enough to run the ball down and make the catch about this far (3 feet) from the fence.”
Every no-hitter needs at least one defensive gem and Canning provided that gem.
In a game that was postponed on Wednesday and played on Thursday, Westview used three pitchers to duel Ramona’s Harrison McGhee. Wolverine reliever Jon Molner got the win by pitching two shutout innings in relief.
McGhee went the distance and gave up two runs on five hits and struck out six in a game that lasted less than two hours.
Westview took the lead in the second inning and led 1-0 when Willeford delivered his fifth homer of the season, a solo blast over the right field fence in the fourth inning to tie the score.
The Wolverines scored the winning run in the sixth inning and got a break in the seventh when Ramona mounted a rally. Brandon Fitzpatrick stroked his second hit of the game and Canning laid on a sacrifice bunt to advance Fitzpatrick. It appeared that Canning had beaten out the throw to first for his third hit of the game, but he was ruled out on a controversial call. If he had been safe, Sulser’s fly out to deep right field that ended the game would have been a game-tying RBI. It was not to be. Ramona outhit Westview eight to five. Christian Drews went 2-for-2 with a double and Fitzpatrick went 2-for-3 with a double. Sulser also stroked a hit.
Game three of the series was rained out on Friday and played on Saturday. It took longer to get the field playable than it took to play the game. Rain hit just as the Bulldogs reached the field. Westview coaches made every effort to get the field ready. Westview’s Jake Valdez and Ramona’s Rhett Williams then locked horns in a classic pitching battle. Both pitchers tossed shutout ball for six and a half innings. In those innings Ramona stroked three hits and Westview had four hits.
Willeford, the only hitter to hit in all three games, singled in the first. Kevin Hagan singled in the fourth and Hunter McHargue delivered a double in the seventh.
McHargue’s double came with Fitzpatrick on first after receiving a base on balls. The ball was hit over the leftfielder’s head, and Coach Mike Schuler waved Fitzpatrick home as he approached third. Schuler knew that it would take a perfect throw and a perfect relay to get Fitzpatrick at the plate. Westview got a perfect throw and a perfect relay and got Fitzpatrick at the plate.
Andrew McWilliam hit the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning over the leftfield fence to win the game in walk-off style for the Wolverines.
“We got excellent pitching. Usually that kind of pitching will get you three wins. As Coach (Tom) Jamison said, ‘you have to score runs to win,’” joked Coach Dean Welch after the game. “Both teams played well on defense and both staffs pitched great games. They were great games to watch and play in but not much fun to lose.”