By Justin Vigil-Zuniga
Signal Sports Writer
Castaic (9-11, 5-4) came out on top in a great back-and-forth league battle with Saugus (8-16, 2-7).
The Coyotes were led by junior Ethan Silva, who finished 3-3. Stephan Souza finished just behind Silva with a great 2-2 day.
Souza’s big day was capped off in the top of the sixth as he hit one of Castaic’s three straight base hits. The junior was brought home and scored one of two runs after David Cailotto hit the eventual game-winning 2 RBI double.
Both teams entered Wednesday’s league contest in need of a win. The Coyotes will need just one more win in their next three games to clinch a playoff berth in their first-ever varsity season.
The Coyotes got on the board first with a four-run second inning.
Souza hit a big 2 RBI double to open up the game before an error and successful double steal scored the next two. Two runners would get on after a pair of errors by Centurion third baseman Erik Polanco.
Polanco redeemed himself immediately with a leadoff base hit before scoring later in the bottom of the second.
Castaic junior Diego Spross got the start on the hill and tossed a gem of a game. Spross got the pass from most of the runs coming via errors and fanned five Centurions in his 4.2-inning start.
Spross has been dealing with a lingering arm injury but showed little signs of distress on the mound.
“I’m getting a lot better,” said Spross. “I didn’t feel anything, everything worked smoothly. Mentally, I was just there, ready for anything.”
There was a flurry of mistakes on both sides and errors gutted Castaic in the fifth.
Saugus leaped back into the game, down 5-1. The Centurions’ first two batters would reach on would-be groundouts to third baseman Aaron Gonzalez.
Gonzalez’ misses to first allowed two base runners to get on quickly.
Spross shook it off and retired two straight. The second out and first run of the rally would come off a sacrifice fly from Polanco.
The Centurions registered two consecutive hits after Cody Collier hit a deep RBI double to center field.
The game would be tied on a wild play. Saugus left fielder TJ Cataldi grounded to Gonzalez at third, who missed his third throw to first base of the inning. Gonzalez gets a pass for the third one by potentially being distracted by Cataldi’s bat, which was sent flying over the Castaic dugout after the hit.
Gonzalez was moved to the mound later in the inning and stranded three Centurion batters, redeeming himself for the earlier errors.
The relief pitcher was awarded the win for the Coyotes and was part of stranding 11 Saugus base runners on the day.
“Aaron did a hell of a job,” said Spross. “He came back from making the errors and he did a great job. That’s what a real player is. I’m really proud of him.”
Castaic then took the lead right back in the sixth after Cailotto’s double.
Centurion left-handed pitcher Carson Knapp got the loss and also was excused from plenty of earned runs due to team errors.
Knapp was solid working the zone, striking out and walking three batters.
Russell Burke entered in relief for Saugus and did his part to keep the Centurions in the game.
Collier would exit the game in the sixth after taking a brutal pitch to the head. Collier was 1-2 on the day.
However, Saugus just couldn’t hit off Gonzalez, who threw a perfect inning to close the game.
The Centurions had some great chances but fell just a run short of making the playoff hunt very interesting. The team kept their energy high throughout the game no matter the score.
“They battled all the way through,” said Saugus head coach Carl Grissom. “They stayed in the fight, just couldn’t find a way to get those extra runs to put us over on top.”
Castaic got the win and Davis, a Saugus alumnus, showed some things never change, as he won on the Centurions’ field.
“We knew it was going to be tough to come here today,” said Davis. “We’re both fighting for that last [playoff] spot. It was a war.”
Davis still holds the record (and the second all-time mark) for most bases stolen in a season for Saugus with 32 back in 1989.
The Centurions are still in the playoff hunt but will need to win out as well as need a handful of other games to go in their favor.
The two will face off again in round two on Friday at Castaic. Saugus will fight for its postseason life against starting pitcher Tyler Hawn.
The Centurions head to Castaic Friday at 3:30 p.m.