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George rules on the mound, but Gauchos lose game

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 1:38 p.m.

Veteran left-hander Kevin George was electrifying Tuesday afternoon, but couldn’t stay around long enough to pitch Casa Grande’s varsity baseball Gauchos to a victory in what was officially their opening game of the season after a couple of exhibition contests.

The Santa Clara-bound senior, was almost unhittable through four innings against Will C. Wood High School from Vacaville, accounting for 10 of the 12 outs he recorded via strikeouts. He retired after four innings, as Casa coach Paul Maytorena limited his early season mound participation.

“It was his first time on the mound in awhile,” the coach pointed out.

No sooner had he departed than Wood rallied for a 4-2 win on the Casa diamond.

George simply blew away the majority of the Wood batters with a combination of fast balls and sharp breaking pitches.

He did allow a run while striking out the side in the opening inning. In between those three whiffs, Wood’s Tyler Bailey shot a single up the middle and left-hitting Brandon Mihelich got around very late on a fast ball and rolled a double down the third-base line to score Bailey. After that, there was almost nothing off George, who struck out the side again in the second and added two more whiffs in both the third and fourth innings.

Casa Grande avoided having to face Wood’s Trevin Haseltine, rated one of the top high school pitching prospects in the nation. Haseltine and his 92 mph fast ball are expected to meet Rancho Cotate on Friday.

Casa Grande may have missed Haseltine, but the Gauchos got no bargain in Mihelich, who allowed just one run on four hits with four strikeouts over his own four innings of work.

The Gauchos did manage to get the game tied at 1-1 by scratching out a run in the second inning on a solid single by Iggy Llorence, a balk, a productive ground out by Taylor Gomez and Casey Longaker’s hustling two-out infield single.

The game changed quickly when George left at the onset of the fifth inning. Wood’s Wildcats met Casa reliever Justin Toavs with three hits, a bunt and a walk for three runs. The rally should have been cut off at two, but Casa messed up a potential inning-ending double play to allow Wood’s fourth run to score.

Sophomore Eric Parnow, another lefty, got the final two outs of the rough inning and breezed through the sixth with three impressive strikeouts. Junior Dominic Garrihan pitched a perfect seventh, striking out two. For the game, the four Gaucho hurlers struck out 15 and allowed just six hits, with half of them coming in the costly fifth inning.

Meanwhile, Casa Grande batters were squandering all sorts of opportunities to get back in the game.

In the fourth, a soaring lead-off double off the distance center field fence by Anthony Bender provided instant hope, but the next three Gauchos went down on a strikeout, ground out and pop out.

A double play wiped out a lead-off walk in the fifth. In the sixth, a walk sandwiched between two infield errors loaded the bases with Gauchos with no outs, but a strikeout and a pretty second-to-short-to-first double play strangled the rally.

Even in the last of the seventh inning, with dusk descending, the Gauchos threatened.

Two outs into the inning, pinch hitter Jake Ielmorini, just a couple of weeks removed from the basketball court, slammed a single up the middle. George, who had stayed in the game to play first base, received a free pass on four wide pitches. Charlie Parnow hit what looked to be a game-ending grounder to third, but the Wood infielder trampled on the bouncer, and the bases were loaded with Casa Grande’s best hitter and one of the best bat swingers in the Redwood Empire, catcher Francis Christy, coming to the plate.

Christy took two strikes and then hit the ball sharply, but squarely at Wood first baseman Hazeltine. For a few Gaucho hopeful breaths, he bobbled the ball, then picked it up and beat the sprinting Christy to the bag to end the evening.

“We had our chances,” noted Maytorena. “The kids went to sleep a couple of times and it cost us. We have a lot of young players, and we’re still working through some things.”

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