The night before West Ranch’s Saturday afternoon doubleheader against Buchanan of Clovis, the first baseball game of fall, Wildcats coach Casey Burrill couldn’t sleep.
“For me it’s kind of like Christmas Eve a little bit,” Burrill said. “We kind of really start our grind. This is when we start.”
Consistently ranked as one of the top teams in California and in the country by MaxPreps.com, the Bears flaunted a deep bullpen and a dynamic offense on Saturday at College of the Canyons. However, West Ranch was able to split the doubleheader, winning the first game 6-3 and dropping the second 11-5.
The Cats put up three runs, all unearned, in the first inning but didn’t dent the scoreboard again until the third inning.
DJ Tsukashima scored on an error in that frame for the first run in the third. Sophomore Jake Callahan hit a double shortly after and Phillip Sawyer drove him in on the next at-bat.
“I was kind of nervous at the beginning at my first at-bat,” Callahan said, “but after that, I felt pretty good and felt good that I could get back into it.”
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Buchanan scored twice in the top of the fifth, and the Wildcats added one more run of their own when Sawyer hit a sacrifice groundout in the bottom of the inning. The Bears added one more in the sixth inning.
“The first game, our corps of arms were really good in the strike zone with a couple different pitches,” Burrill said. “We also played some good defense behind our arms in the first game. They kind of set the table for us to do some good thing offensively and when it was time, we did.
The energy didn’t completely carry over into the second game as the Cats’ pitching staff began to fade and the rest of the team followed. Meanwhile, Buchanan stayed strong.
“The second game was kind of a different story,” Burrill continued. “The tale of two cities, yin and the yang. That second game, we did not come out and pound the strike zone, our defense was not good. We had some chances offensively to do some things, we kind of struggled to do that as well.”
The first two innings looked promising for West Ranch, which was able to tally five runs in those two frames.
Nicholas Perez scored on an error, then recent Oregon commit RJ Gordon’s sacrifice fly scored Ryan Farr in the first inning.
In the second, Callahan his second double of the day, this one to drive in Luke Combos. Callahan then scored on a wild pitch and Ryan Farr cracked a sacrifice fly to bring in Luke Hinrichs.
The game only went to five innings, and the Bears were able to hold the Cats scoreless for the rest of them.
“Buchanan is a lot like the teams down here,” Burrill said. “They take their baseball real serious, they’re year-round, they keep their players together like we do. “It was really kind of fun to play an out-of-town team that’s consistently in the top 25 in the country, play 11 innings today at a college field. It was just a really good, fun atmosphere.”
West Ranch continues its fall schedule on Oct. 12 at Thousand Oaks. Game time is 10 a.m.