Hawk balk on the Stangs

Season opens with loss


Cathie Lawrence

LMC rightfielder Ty Nielson lays down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the sixth inning that led to two unearned runs scoring to tie up the game.

After a successful 2014 season where the Los Medanos College Mustangs had nine different players earn awards, the 2015 baseball season kicked off Tuesday, Jan. 27. In the home game against the visiting Cabrillo Seahawks the ‘Stangs fell 3-2 in extra innings in a game that had a little bit of everything.

The season kicked off on a warm Tuesday afternoon with all of the fanfare that you would see at a home opener of an MLB game – just on a smaller level.

Both teams lined up along the foul lines and faced right-center field where the American flag was flying over the fence and the national anthem was played over the sound system.

Once the Star-Spangled Banner was completed the 2015 Mustangs kicked off the season the same way the 2014 team kicked off every home game – with a huddle, a cheer and a break like you often see of special teams units in the NFL.

The Mustangs sprinted to their positions and after brief warm ups the first pitch was thrown, and that is where the trouble began for the Mustangs.

After quickly retiring the Seahawks lead-off batter JQ Folena, Mustangs starting pitcher Mike Alexander gave up back-to-back hits, and then the first run scored on a passed ball. The next batter also singled giving up the second run of the game. With two runs on the board and only one out, Alexander settled in and got into a groove.

If Alexander hadn’t settled into that groove it could have been ugly for the Mustangs, and Seahawks Head Coach Robert Kittle felt the team could have blown it wide open.

“The reason we didn’t blow [open the game] was the LMC pitchers adjusted and did a really good job to keep the game right there and our hitters were unable to adjust to them,” he said.

Over the next six innings, Alexander shut down the Seahawks’ offense and finished with a solid stat line of seven innings pitched allowing eight hits and one earned run with eight strikeouts.

His strong pitching performance kept the ‘Stangs in the game, but the hitting and base running of ninth place hitter Jared Ambuehl got the rally started that would eventually tie the game.

“It felt pretty good,” Ambuehl said of the hit that started the rally. “I knew their pitcher had a good breaking ball, and I just tried to use the whole field and barrel one up.”

After Ambuehl’s single, the line-up turned over to leadoff hitter Derek Slate who promptly walked. With two on and zero out, Ty Nielsen bunted both runners into scoring position with 2014 Second Team All-Conference First Baseman Ryan Welsh coming up to bat. With the Mustangs feared hitter up to bat, Ambuehl scored thanks to head-up base running on a wild pitch as Slate came around to score on an error by the catcher to tie the game on the same play.

With the game tied late, the bullpens of both teams became their biggest weapons and both teams were up to the task. The ‘pens combined to pitch five and two-thirds innings allowing only one hit, one walk and zero earned runs.

In spite of solid relief by the likes of Anthony Ogolin and Nabeeh Blackburn, the Mustangs let an unearned run score in extras.

In the tenth inning it was an error by shortstop Slate, one of the early saviors of the game, that played a key part in the loss.

Slate made a great play to stop a ball from going up the middle off the bat of Seahawk Angel Sanchez, but a wide throw to first allowed Sanchez to reach base.

With Sanchez on third after the Seahawks successfully moved him over, a balk was called on Blackburn that caused D’Albora to run out to the mound and get into a loud argument with the second base umpire.

“I think he missed the call,” D’Albora said. “It’s not my job to make the calls, that’s his job, and he made the call he made, but I don’t think Nabeeh [Blackburn] did anything wrong.”

Through all of the commotion and the possibility of a bad call costing his team the game, Blackburn was able to keep his composure and finish off the game without further incident. D’Albora said that Blackburn deserves a lot of credit for being able to work through something like that, and Blackburn said his ability to do so is because of D’Albora and the coaching staff.

“Having such a great coaching staff, they taught us how to stay calm in situations like that and to keep it professional and stay focused.”

Blackburn kept his composure and finished off the game for the Mustangs, and with the lead the Seahawks brought in their closer Matt Deane. He would allow one hit, but he went on to shut the door on any hopes of the Mustangs pulling out an opening day victory.

In spite of the tough loss the team played well and looks to be in good shape for the 2015 season.

“The beauty of today is that we competed our butts off. We didn’t do a ton offensively early, but we stayed on it,” D’Albora said. “We created some runs by being ready to run the bases. The dugout was energetic and the culture in there is good. We played defense besides the one 11 second chunk at the end of the game. There is plenty to walk away from this game pleased with.”

The Mustangs will hope to build on what they did well as the season moves on. They return home Friday, Feb. 6 for the first game of a three game series against Fresno City College.