By Tony Ciniglio
For The Signal
There was no doubt the Canyon baseball team faced a must-win situation Wednesday afternoon at Golden Valley High.
Yet when the game came down to the wire, Canyon played with confidence and made the clutch plays to earn a hard-fought 4-3 Foothill League victory over Golden Valley to remain in a playoff hunt where every victory is magnified.
“It’s our gray pants, man,” Canyon pitcher Steven Cornell said.
Canyon donned gray pants en route to winning the Beaumont Tournament title last week and carried some of that momentum into Wednesday’s game, dressed to the nines again.
Perhaps it’s the Brotherhood of the Gray Pants.
“This could get us going,” Canyon’s Charles Harrison said. “Our goal is to make sure we finish over .500 on the season so we can qualify for the playoffs.”
Canyon (10-8, 2-4) beat Golden Valley for the second time this season heading into Friday’s third and final meeting.
However, Canyon squandered a 3-0 lead on Wednesday and knew it could not waste an opportunity against Golden Valley (8-9, 0-6).
After all, every victory matters as Canyon eyes a potential .500 record that might be enough to earn an at-large playoff berth to the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 playoffs since a top-three league finish and an automatic bid seems unlikely.
Though Wednesday was admittedly a bit nerve-wracking.
“I felt we got really complacent, especially after going up 3-0,” Canyon coach Drew Peterson said. “We could have easily given this one away, but obviously I’m glad we got the win. The message to the team though is to not get complacent.”
Canyon delivered in the seventh inning.
Harrison bombed a leadoff triple to start the seventh and scored on C.J. Dowell’s RBI single that took a wicked bounce over the shortstop’s head.
“I was trying to hit the ball on the ground and score Charles, and I just wanted to make sure I had a good at-bat,” Dowell said. “It felt pretty good off the bat.”
Then Cornell – who threw a no-hitter in the Beaumont Tournament semifinals – was tasked with protecting the lead.
With a runner at third and two outs, Peterson elected to intentionally walk Golden Valley’s Collin Woodard – who had gone 3 for 3 with an RBI double – to put the winning run at first base.
“Honestly I wanted that guy. I wanted to go after him with my best stuff,” Cornell said. “But I get what we were trying to do. And we’ve got to do what’s best for the team.”
The strategy paid off as Cornell induced Daniel Goodwin to fly out to left field to end the game.
Watch Canyon pitcher Steven Cornell record the final out on a fly ball to strand the tying run at third and winning run at first. Canyon intentionally walked Collin Woodard (3 for 3) to set up final out. @SignalSports pic.twitter.com/Hd6ZkMY0OX
— Tony Ciniglio (@TCiniglio) April 12, 2018
“That guy (Woodard) had been killing us all game and had some quality at-bats, so we went for the next guy,” Peterson said. “On the road, you have to play for the win.”
Harrison went 3-for-4 with a double, triple, an RBI and two runs scored, providing a spark as Canyon scored a run in each of the first three innings.
Harrison hit a leadoff double on the first pitch of the game and scored on Cebastian Arriaga’s RBI single in the first inning.
Harrison also hit an RBI single in the second inning to score Conrad Meza, who had doubled. Jared Heacock scampered home on a wild pitch in the third inning.
Harrison also delivered in the seventh.
“I was trying to look for a first-pitch fastball. I got it, and I didn’t miss,” Harrison said.
Credit to Golden Valley for clawing back from a 3-0 deficit.
Woodard hit an RBI double to score Matt Broadwater in the fourth inning to close to 3-1.
Then Golden Valley tied it 3-3 in the fifth after an RBI double by Dylan Daszek and an RBI single by Cameron Pfafman.
“We knew we are never out of the game,” Broadwater said “We gave ourselves a shot late. It just came down to a few things here and there, but there are some positives to take away.”
Woodard said he was surprised about the intentional walk, saying he wanted a chance to do damage in the seventh.
“I was pretty heated, man,” Woodward said. “I wanted to try to tie or even win the game.”
They will get another shot on Friday.