West Ranch center fielder Jovan Camacho struggled to pluck the ball from his glove. Wildcat catcher Christos Stefanos couldn’t believe his eyes. Coach Casey Burrill struggled to recall a play like it in program history.
With runners on first and second and no outs, Camacho caught a sinking line drive and tossed it to Nico Valdez at second to double off one runner.
Valdez then relayed the ball to first baseman Will Chambers for the first triple play in program history, ending the top of the fourth inning and serving as the highlight among a handful of slick defensive plays in the Wildcats’ 8-3 win over Agoura High on Friday at The Master’s University.
“I saw both runners take off with less than two outs, and I really didn’t expect a triple play,” said Stefanos, whose team improved to 4-3. “I expected a double play. … I was as surprised as anybody could be.”
Stefanos finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs, the first coming on a double as part of a four-run bottom of the second inning.
Wildcats leadoff hitter Camacho finished 3-for-4 and scored three runs. And Austin Hernandez added two of the Wildcats’ 13 hits.
Defense stole the show, though.
Chris Gaff made a diving stop at third base and fired across the diamond for the first out of the sixth.
Chambers made a lunging pick when Gaff skipped a throw later in the inning.
Prep baseball: Will Chambers with beautiful lunging pick at first base to end the top of six. West Ranch up 7-3, coming to the plate.
— Signal Sports (@SignalSports) March 11, 2017
And, of course, there was the triple play. Agoura (3-3) trailed only 5-3 in the top of the fourth, and with two men on and no outs, it looked to have West Ranch starter Alex Burge on the ropes.
Just eight days earlier, the Chargers had put up a six-run inning and a four-running inning in an 11-7 win over a Wildcats team that committed six errors.
Camacho charged the liner. Valdez made the turn. Chambers squeezed a small piece of history.
“I had a hard time getting it out of my glove,” Camacho said. “I didn’t know it was going to be a triple play. I didn’t even know the guy at first was running. As soon as Nico caught it, I looked at first and the guy was nowhere close.”
Said Stefanos, “That was a big momentum changer.”
West Ranch added an insurance run in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings, and Dom Eberle pitched two scoreless innings in relief of Burge to close out the game.
Burge allowed three runs on six hits over five innings.
He struck out four and walked two. It’s unclear whether Eberle or Burge will serve as the Cats’ No. 2 starter behind ace Timmy Josten. The other will likely close.
What was clear: West Ranch has momentum heading into Wednesday’s Foothill League opener at Golden Valley.
After a 1-3 start, the Cats have won three in a row.
“We’re really excited we picked up a little momentum here,” Burrill said. “… For us to be on the winning side of the record heading into league I think is a good sign for us.”