By Jesse Phelps
The Thacher Toad baseball team
won't be making another appearance in the CIF Southern Section
title game this year. With two shutouts under its belt in the
first two rounds, Thacher looked to be an unstoppable force until
it met an immovable object in the form of the Riverside Christian
Cougars in round three.
Traveling for the first time in the playoffs, the Toads (15-2)
suffered a 13-10 defeat on a day when a usually reliable defense
committed nine errors and a potent offense couldn't overcome
the yielding of nine unearned runs.
Thacher coach Rich Mazzola was surprised by the lack of defensive
focus and said it was something that affected his entire ball
club. "I guess we saved up our errors for that one game.
I think every position had one error," Mazzola said.
The usually dominant Graham Douds, a junior who will have another
crack at the title next year, suffered his first loss of the
year in his team's final game. He pitched five innings, yielding
only two earned runs, but 10 runs overall, before giving over
the mound to Thacher's other ace, Charlie Munzig. Mazzola said,
"I wouldn't say that (Douds) was in top form, certainly
wasn't as dominating as in the first-round game. He was doing
just fine, throwing pitches that they were making contact on.
They were putting the ball in play and, unfortunately, our defense
just wasn't there to support him."
One Thacher player who did come to play, on both defense and
offense, was Tyler Caldwell. Caldwell went two for four with
four RBIs and made what Mazzola termed "a great diving catch"
in center field.
Caldwell drove in his first run in the second inning, plating
first baseman Richard Smith from third. Smith, who had singled,
moved to third on designated hitter Chris Willoughby's single.
That run was the lone Thacher tally until the sixth.
Trailing 10-1 in the sixth, the Toads got a mini-rally started
when Douds singled to lead off the inning. After a strikeout,
Smith was hit by a pitch.
Douds and Smith then moved into scoring position on a passed
ball. Cameron Robertson's two-run single lowered the deficit
to seven runs.
But Thacher trailed by 10 again when it came to bat in the top
of the seventh. Down 13-3 heading into the final inning, the
Toads still hadn't given up. Thacher sent 12 batters to the plate
in the seventh and mounted a charge before ultimately succumbing.
With one out, Sullivan reached on an error. Munzig then singled
him to second and a Douds' single scored Sullivan. For the day,
Douds went two for four with two runs scored and an RBI.
Dylan Valadez followed by belting a triple deep to left field,
scoring Munzig and Douds. The rally continued with Smith and
Robertson each drawing walks sandwiched around a strikeout. Caldwell
then drove in three with his second hit of the day, a double.
Leadoff hitter and second baseman Owili Eison walked and stole
second. When Sullivan reached on another error, Caldwell scored
and suddenly the Toads were within striking distance.
Munzig came to the plate representing the tying run and promptly
scorched one down the left field line but Riverside Christian
third baseman Mark Wedel nabbed what looked to be a sure extra-base
hit, catching it for the third out to end the Thacher season.
Still, the seven-run inning made it more than respectable; Thacher
had made one last charge to save a season that seemed destined
to go as far as it could go. "We went out in a blaze of
glory in what was not a glorious game," said Mazzola.
This represents the end of the line for five seniors. Munzig
plans to play on the next level as a college freshman and Caldwell
will attend Vanderbilt, where he will play soccer.
Perhaps appropriately, on what has become a close team over the
past couple of years, Eison, Sullivan and Smith will all attend
the University of Southern California.
The Ojai Valley News
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