Down 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning of a CIF-Southern Section Division 6 first-round playoff game against Gladstone at William S. Hart Pony Baseball and Softball Complex on Friday, the Trinity Classical Academy Knights found themselves right where they wanted to be.
Trailing for most of the game, the Knights might have seemed flustered at times, but never gave up hope that things will fall into place.
Doing just that, the Knights completed the first come-from-behind win of this year’s playoffs in a thrilling three-run seventh inning to defeat Gladstone 6-5.
“I could see it on everyone’s faces,” said senior Jake Backes. “No one was talking because it felt like this was going to be our final game. I remember the first thing I said: ‘Why are you guys acting like this is our last game?’ Just knowing where our team has come from and knowing where we are headed.”
Andrew Pfeiffer lead off the inning with a single. His brother Luke Pfeiffer, was walked. Carson Campuzano was issued an intentional walk to load the bases.
That’s when the fireworks began with Mr. Clutch, Jake Backes.
“They call him ‘Clutch Backes,’ so you can never go wrong,” said Judah Palmisano. “When they walked Carson to bring up Jake, everybody knew that something good was going to happen.”
Connecting with a ball for an RBI single down the first baseline, Backes scored Andrew Pfeiffer to begin the comeback at 5-4.
With the bases jammed for Palmisano, he delivered another RBI single, this time down the third baseline to bring in Luke Pfeiffer from third, tying the game at 5-5.
On the relay throw to home plate, Campuzano rounded third base with some speed and slid into home plate for what could have been the game-winning run, but was called out at the play at the plate.
The following batter, Peyton Frazier, walked with runners on first and third base to load the bases once again, this time for sophomore William Yumbar.
“I was just relaxed,” Yumbar said about his mindset as he stepped to the plate. “Trying to think of everything I’ve been working on lately. Staying through the ball and try to drive something up the middle.”
Staying true to his fundamentals, Yumbar delivered a crushing hit into center field that was caught for the second out of the inning, allowing Backes to tag up at third and score for Yumbar’s second sac fly RBI of the game to seal the comeback victory for the Knights.
“Here’s the craziest thing: William Yumbar has been hitting 3 or 4 all year,” said Trinity head coach Mike Franchimone. “Today is the first day we moved him to eighth. He figured some stuff out and made a big boy play. The timing was right for him today, that’s all I can say. It was his time to shine.”
Allowing two early runs in the top of the first inning, starting pitcher Andrew Pfeiffer finished the game going five innings giving up two-earned runs while striking out four and walking two.
But there was never any doubt in his mind as he knew that his best friend and brother, Palmisano, was coming onto close out the game.
“I was thinking this could be my last game that I ever get to touch the mound or get to hit,” Palmisano said. “My mentality was just make sure you are hitting your spots in the zone, make sure you’re striking people out and make sure you’re throwing smart pitches and it got me through the inning. I was able to hit go up and hit that ball through the five-six hole which was huge. I live for playoffs, I love it.”
Palmisano did all that was asked of him in the game, pitching the final two innings getting out of tough situations by stranding three runners and striking out four batters and allowing no runs to cross the plate.
“He came in and I wasn’t having my best day, but my brother, my best friend has my back,” Andrew Pfeiffer said. “That’s what best friends do. It makes me emotional thinking about it, but that was huge and he was so essential to that. That hit, tying the game up and those two innings where he held them scoreless, that’s what keeps us in ballgames and that’s the reason we are still alive.”
Luke Pfeiffer finished the game 1-for-3 with an RBI, Backes 1-for-4 with an RBI and Tristen Rodriguez and Campuzano each recorded a hit in the game.
The Knights move onto the second round of the CIF-SS Division 6 playoffs where they will face off against El Monte at El Monte at 3:15 p.m. on Tuesday.
“They kicked us up to Division 6, this is a school of 1,400 students,” Franchimone said. “This is huge for our school. Yeah, last year was amazing going to the Division 7 Championship, but to win against a school this large is huge for our program. I’m very proud that we showed character and integrity throughout the whole game.”