In round one of the North Coast Section Division 5 playoffs, the St. Vincent de Paul Mustangs strung together three runs in the bottom of the third inning which opened up a four run. After stretching their lead to ten in the bottom of the 5th, the Mustangs run-ruled the International Jaguars, in a 12-2 final.
“I just told my boys pregame, we just gotta be able to take advantage of mistakes,” Mustang Head Coach Spencer Finkbohner said. “Ball bounces any which way, and I was glad we were able to take advantage of it.”
The Mustangs started off slow however, as freshman Dean Wait, came out of the gates firing in the opening frame, with an RBI double, giving International a 1-0 lead.
Wait would also pitch for the Jaguars, turning in a valiant effort even though at times his defense let him down behind him.
“Our freshmen pitcher did an awesome job, stayed off barrels all game,” Head International Coach Curtis Thomas said. “He gave up a couple solid hits, but other than that, I think that was his best outing of the year.”
The Mustangs would quickly respond in the bottom of the first as senior Taiki Belway and sophomore Nico Antonini had back-to-back RBI singles to take an early 2-1 lead.
After an International error that scored another run for the Mustangs in the bottom of the second, the Jaguars answered back in the top of the third with a Sac Fly from senior Nikolas Ruden that was set up by catcher's interference and a double.
Following the third inning, the Jaguars did not post a run in credit to the stellar pitching from senior Jake DeCarli. After a rough start, he ended the day giving just two runs, nine strikeouts, one walk, and only three hits allowed.
“First inning was shaky and didn't hit the strike zone very much,” DeCarli said. “But after the first inning I took a breath, locked in, started throwing strikes, and started throwing my curveball which came with success.”
Despite only having five appearances prior to today, those in the coaching staff were confident in his ability to start, and finish in round one.
“He's a strike thrower with any pitch at any time,” Finkbohner said. “So I had a lot of confidence in him coming out here on our home turf, getting our defense behind him to play well.”
With a slim 3-2 lead in the bottom of the third, the Mustangs would go on to score three runs thanks to two consecutive errors. A pair of RBI singles in three at bats extended the lead to 6-2.
Errors were an area of concern all afternoon for the Jaguars as they had seven, leading to the Mustangs taking a solid lead.
“We did a really good job of running hard all day,” Finkbohner said. “I told my guys I don't care if you hit the ball 450 feet, or you hit it four feet, just run hard, and anytime a team gives you extra outs, take it and we took advantage of it today.”
The Jaguars only had one senior playing Tuesday, which could have been a contributing factor to the sloppy defensive play.
“We are a young team with only two seniors, just one playing today,” Thompson said, “And immaturity leading to a lot of mistakes, mental mistakes, with mostly freshmen and sophomores playing today.”
Following the third, DeCarli would strikeout five out of the next six batters, surrendering no hits, leaving the Jaguars hopeless on offense.
The Mustangs never looked back, as they scored two in the bottom of the fourth, and four in the bottom of the fifth, due to three RBI knocks in four at bats. These two rallies expanded the lead to ten, resulting in a run-rule victory for the Mustangs.
After a dominant outing, many on the team only have one goal moving forward and that is to win.
“Win, it’s all you really want to do, to make it all the way, and win the championship,” DeCarli said. “It's everyone's goal on this team.”
This marks the end of a successful season for the International Jaguars, who tallied up a 9-8 record, and finished second in the Bay Counties - Central League.
The future is bright for the Jaguars too, as 13 out of the 15 players on the roster will be returning next year, as they look to be successful in the years to come.
“In a couple years, they'll be ready to go and be more mature,” Thompson said. “And I think we'll definitely be back here.”
As for the Mustangs, they continue on to the second round of the North Coast Section Playoffs, where they will travel to San Francisco to face off against University High School, in a game to advance to the semifinals.
“We have a lot to work on, and still haven't played our best game yet,” Finkbohner said. “That's what I'm looking forward to seeing, us clicking on all cylinders.”