The Bishop Broncos travelled to Rosamond Tuesday for a rematch with the Roadrunners. The game was pivotal, assuring Bishop the High Desert League championship and, potentially, keeping the team in the top four for CIF baseball playoffs.
The Broncos clinched the first with a 7-3 win over Rosamond. The playoff schedule will be announced Sunday. The Broncos have one more league game, an away match today with the Desert Scorpions who have yet to see a win in league play.
“We should be locked into the number four spot,” said coach Tim Reid, “which gives home field advantage for the first playoff round.”
The other unknown is a possible make-up game, Friday, with Frazier Mountain. The originally scheduled game was snowed out in April. A make-up game will be played only if it is crucial for playoff eligibility for the Falcons, a long-shot for third place in the HDL, and the final league slot in the post-season competition. The Falcons are 4-4 and face Kern Valley today. Kern Valley and Rosamond are tied for third with a 6-3 record.
Tuesday’s game was a close pitcher’s battle until the Broncos blew it out of the water in the fifth inning. The key to the game and the season has been strong pitching, a nearly perfect defense and insurmountable depth at bat. While Keith Tatum and Schain Thomson have maintained a league record for consecutive hits, it was Aaron Puls’ turn against Rosamond to rack up the runs.
“Puls is red hot right now,” said Reid. “He put us on his back Tuesday.”
Two of Puls’ doubles came with the bases loaded so walking the first baseman wasn’t an option.
The first inning was a three up/three down wash.
Bishop has mastered the art of base stealing, but the Roadrunners taught them a lesson in the top of the second, taking both Thomson and pitcher Tanner Kruse out in failed steal attempts.
In the bottom of the second, Roadrunner Ryan Christensen walked, stole second and scored on a passed ball. The Broncos held the damage to just 1 run when Tatum got the final out on a popped up foul from designated hitter Richard Gonzalez. Rosamond was ahead 0-1.
Rosamond pitcher Nick Sterling made short work of the Broncos’ lineup in the third. Kruse did the same for the Roadrunners. With two outs, the third batter, Lashante Grimes, was hit by a pitch to gain first base, stole second then got greedy and headed to third where he was caught by Jared Davis for the final out.
Puls gave the Roadrunners a sneak peak of things to come in the fourth with a 350-foot double that rolled to the outfield fence. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Thomson to tie the score 1-1.
Rosamond’s only hit came in the fourth off the bat of Jerald Harris, a double to center field. Christensen tried to duplicate the hit, but center fielder Nate Coakley took it away for an out. Harris was left stranded on second with Kruse’s fourth strikeout of the game.
Any hopes the Roadrunners had of tying up the championship, a repeat of the 2010 season, or just being a spoiler for the Broncos’ undefeated league season waned in the fifth inning.
Doug Watterson got hit by a pitch; Taylor Neubauer lobbed one over the third baseman’s head for a single. Chance Callahan singled with a combination of speed and a Rosamond error to load the bases. Puls, the Roadrunners’ public enemy number one, hit another double to center field, scoring Watterson and Neubauer and giving Bishop a 3-1 lead.
A stunned Rosamond went three up/three down to end the fifth inning. But the pain kept coming and the hopes dissolved. Kruse hit a single home run over the left field wall, his second of the season. Watterson and Coakley assaulted the right field with a double and single, respectively. Callahan walked to load the bases and then, here comes Puls with another double to the wall, clearing the bases. By the final Broncos out, they led 7-1.
An up-to-now error-free Broncos defense slipped in the sixth, allowing two Roadrunners to get on base. Kruse slammed the door with a strikeout.
Rosamond brought in relief pitcher Chris Fandrey in the top of the seventh, but the damage was already done.
In the final inning with two outs, Matt Franco hit a 2-run double, but the Roadrunner rally ended quickly with another Coakley out in center field.
Tanner Kruse pitched all 7 innings with 8 strikeouts, 2 hits, 3 runs and 2 walks
Aaron Puls: 3 for 4, 3 doubles, 5 RBI
Schain Thomson: a sacrifice fly for 1 RBI
Tanner Kruse: 2 for 4 with a homerun
Doug Watterson: 2 for 4 with a double
Nathan Coakley: 1 for 4
Taylor Neubauer: 2 for 4 with 1 RBI
The first playoff game for Bishop on home field will be Friday, May 20.