Highlanders swept by Troy as offensive woes continue
by Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
From an offensive standpoint, the La Habra baseball team has nearly executed its gameplan to completion over the past week with the exception of one aspect: scoring runs.
In a make-up game due to poor air quality last Wednesday, the Highlanders took advantage of an erratic performance by Troy starting pitcher Evan Frobisher in order to get on base and used sacrifice bunts to move runners into scoring position.
However, La Habra couldn’t come up with key base hits to bring runs home, stranding 10 runners in a 3-1 loss to Troy, Monday afternoon at Troy High.
“We did a very good job at getting them on and getting them over, we just failed at getting them in,” said John Sothern, La Habra head coach. “Sometimes you have a guy that squares a ball up and just hits it to somebody, I can live with that. We had guys in full counts reaching for balls out of the zone and putting it in play with a pop up or weak ground ball when it could have been ball four.”
La Habra’s lone run in the first inning was the product of a sacrifice fly ball off the bat of Michael Borg with the bases loaded, scoring Andrew Gallegos from third base.
The Highlanders (11-12, 5-6) loaded the bases with one out in the second inning and again with no outs in the fourth inning. On both occasions, La Habra came up empty-handed.
“The last two games were must-win games for us, so getting the execution was huge,” Sothern said. “We did a great job of making [Frobisher] labor, we did a lot to force him to rush to the plate and get him out of his rhythm, but if we don’t jump on a guy who is in that situation, we give them the momentum.”
For three innings, starting pitcher Chris Nuanes controlled Troy’s bats, limiting the Warriors to just two hits.
However, in the fourth inning, after La Habra’s failed attempt with the bases loaded, Troy (10-11, 7-4) rode the momentum to the tune of three runs on five singles.
Singles by Jonathan Banuelos and Michael Lozano, along with a walk to Kris Amparo, loaded the bases for the Warriors with no outs.
Pinch-hitter Brett Boller and catcher Ryan Park collected RBI-singles, while another came home when Matthieu Bouchard grounded into a double play.
“In the top half of the inning, [La Habra] kept getting guys on base and it’s a momentum changer when you have situations like that and you can’t score,” said Dave Shirota, Troy head coach. “In the dugout, we felt like we were going to score a couple runs and pull this one out. It was another good game, both teams played defense and pitched well, we just got some timely hits and that was the difference.”
La Habra stranded four base runners in two innings against Troy reliever Kevin Deming, including two runners at third base.
Lozano pitched a perfect seventh inning to secure the season sweep for the Warriors. Frobisher earned the win, pitching four innings and allowing one run on four hits while striking out two batters and walking three.
The win also puts Troy two games ahead of La Habra and Fullerton for second place and keeps the Warriors alive for a share of the league title with Sonora.
“We know Fullerton is looming and we know they’re a good team, like La Habra,” Shirota said. “Every team poses a problem for us and I believe we pose a problem for everyone. It’s great to see our guys pulling out close games. We’re a young team and La Habra’s a young team, so we look at this and think there will be plenty of close games in the next couple years. We didn’t think we’d sweep this year, so our guys are excited.”
The Highlanders were aided by two sharp relief innings by Carlos Lomeli, who allowed just two base runners, one of which was picked off in a double play.
Kyle Schuh led the way offensively with two of the Highlanders’ three bunt singles on the afternoon. Jake Tourville reached third base twice after a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
Nuanes took the loss, pitching three-and-two-thirds innings and giving up three runs on seven hits while striking out four batters.
The Highlanders, in the midst of a three-game week, will now set their sights on Sonora, starting with a home game, Wednesday afternoon.
“In terms of us playing, I felt we played fairly well from a defensive perspective,” Sothern said. “From an offensive perspective, I don’t care how many hits we get, because it doesn’t always equate to runs. We need to be able to score and we’ve hit a rough patch with that. Ultimately, it comes down to our guys doing whatever it takes and if they don’t, this is the result we’ll see the vast majority of the time.”