CONCORD, Calif. – Concord coach Matt Harrod had to wait a couple of years, but he was finally able to debut the Concord Classic tournament. In the second game of the day, De Anza vaulted ahead in a three-run fifth and beat the Minutemen 4-1.
David Fernandez went the distance and pitched strong after getting into a little bit of trouble in the second inning, and Tyler Jules drove in three runs for De Anza (13-2). A wild play in the fifth speared the three-run rally, and Fernandez shut down the last two hitters in the seventh after the Minutemen had placed two runners on base.
“Calming down, slowing the game, really looking it from afar...being able to make the changes and adjustments needed,” Fernandez replied when asked about shaking off the second inning.
Concord starter Chase Taylor held De Anza scoreless on two hits through three, and the Minutemen (5-7) took the first bite with a manufactured run in the second. LJ Majarucon led off with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a sacrifice, then scored on an unusual play in right field. The fielder had his foot in foul ground, but the ball glanced off his glove and landed foul. It was ruled that the glove was in fair territory, therefore allowing Majarucon to plate the game’s first run.
The Dons tied it up in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Jules, and one inning later a dramatic play broke the tie. RJ Gay Jr. started the inning with a walk. A pick-off attempt by the pitcher landed into foul ground of right field, and Gay Jr. scampered all the way to third. As he paused just beyond the bag, Concord had another miscue on the pick up of the ball, and Gay Jr. seized the chance to score. He sprinted home and just beat the tag, and when TayJhaun Everetts was hit by a pitch in the next at-bat, the momentum continued to swing strongly in De Anza’s favor.
Everetts stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Taylor appeared he might get out of it when he struck out Kaelan Lovan and got Nikko Taylor to fly out in shallow center. But Caden Shott then drew a walk and stole second, and Jules brought both runners home with a loud double to centerfield.
“The key for us has been team chemistry,” De Anza coach Brandon Fredzess said about his team’s hot start, while crediting Fernandez and Jules for their performances in this game. “If you can come out and play baseball and communicate, we’ll take it all day, we’ll put you in our starting nine and keep it movin’.”
“We’ve been playing Little League together all the way up to high school right now,” Fernandez said. “We’re a special group of guys.”
Concord left eight men on base for the afternoon and was caught stealing once. Fernandez allowed six hits, walked two, and struck out three. Taylor departed after Gay’s at bat, and Skylar Juarez and Majarucon both pitched in relief.
“It came down to situational hitting, or lack thereof for us,” Harrod wrote in an email. “We had some opportunities that we let slip through the cracks on offense and their big 2-out RBI double in the 6th inning really put us on our heels.”
For Harrod and others, it was good to get on the field regardless of the outcome. The tournament had originally been slated to start in 2020, but COVID shut it down that year and again in 2021.
“The biggest thing is a sense of normalcy for everyone,” Harrod continued. “Just great to be back on the field, with the kids, opposing players, coaches, etc. Excited we can host these great teams and showcase baseball in this area.”
“We’ve definitely been looking forward to it,” Fredzess remarked. “You always go in with a target on your back, especially when you’re playing the home team who’s hostin,’ so you gotta come out and show out.”
The tournament continues on Monday morning and concludes with the championship game Wednesday at 4:30. In the day’s other action, Miramonte defeated San Leandro 7-2, Antioch bested Vintage 4-2, and American Canyon picked up its first win of the season by beating El Cerrito 3-1.