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Baseball: Cardinals end 26-year championship drought

Baseball: Cardinals end 26-year championship drought

Lindsay wins first Valley Championship since 1992 over Bishop Union, 7-6 on Saturday

By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

VISALIA – Another chance at winning a title almost slip through the Cardinals’ fingers on Saturday, May 26. Tensions got the best of them for the first couple batters of the seventh inning causing their three run lead to dwindle to two. Yet, Lindsay recovered and won the Division VI Valley Championship 7-6 over the Bishop Union Broncos.

Cameron Smith tries to turn a double play. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

Cameron Smith tries to turn a double play. Photo by Patrick Dillon.

The second seeded Cardinals (19-12, 11-4) were three outs away from being crowned champions for the first time in 26 years. It was then in the bottom of the seventh inning when they began to feel the pressure causing a defensive lapse. Two Bronco (15-6-1, 8-2) base runners reached safely on back-to-back errors by Cardinal outfielders. The second was more damaging than the first as it allowed Bishop to score bringing the score 7-5.

Lindsay attempted to force the issue after the second base runner reached third. On a wild pitch, the runner had taken an extremely large lead down the third base line. The ball, however, had not rolled far. Trying for a second out, Lindsay’s catcher Mark Ibarra threw it down the line to third, but the ball went wide, allowing the runner to score the Broncos’ sixth run.

After Lindsay recorded their second out of the inning, a routine ground ball came to Eddie Frias at third base. The freshman settled his feet and delivered a game ending  throw toward first base. 

“All I was thinking… I needed to get the out,” Frias said. 

“This feels amazing. It has been a while since we’ve won a title, so this feels good.”

It’s their first championship since 1992. The same year they were voted the Division V State Champions by CalHi Sports. 

For many the championship is a long awaited reward. Ibarra was one of those players. He joined the varsity team halfway through his sophomore year and played a pivotal part in the Cardinals’ success behind the plate. He ended up playing the biggest role in the title game.

At the top of the seventh inning Lindsay added two insurance runs to make it 7-4. The second was driven in by Ibarra off a double to left field. At the time it provided some breathing room for relief pitcher Ryan Scheufele. It ended up being the game winner.

“This is so surreal,” Ibarra said. “I never imagined it and for this to happen with this group of guys, the best group of guys. We were at the lowest of lows and now we are at the highest of highs.”

 Ibarra did more than score runs as he went 2-4 with three RBIs. Two of those came off a single in the third inning and tied up the game at 2-2. During the next at bat he took advantage of two throwing errors during a pickoff attempt. He scored to give Lindsay the lead 3-2. It was their first lead of the game. He also caught for Jimenez and later Scheufele.

Having only gone a couple innings during the Cardinals 15-2 semifinals win over Roosevelt last Tuesday, Jimenez was the obvious starter. His power matched up well against a Broncos offense that averaged 16 runs a game in their High Dessert League play.

In the first couple innings Jimenez was hit-and-miss on his pitch locations. Accounting for four strikeouts he also had two walks. The first run Jimenez surrendered was a result of an error by Lindsay’s center fielder Julio Godoy. Going to his left the ball bounced off the edge of his glove. The second was off a wild pitch after Jimenez gave up a triple to center. It was the longest hit he would give up all game. Despite his rocky start Jimenez eventually got his arm under control.

What got to him after that was the length of at bats for the Broncos as they fouled off multiple pitches, wearing out Jimenez arm by driving his pitch count up. After the fifth inning he was pulled and replaced with Ryan Scheufele. 

In all he struck out six Bronco batters, and allowed his offense to gain a 4-2 lead at one point.

Lindsay’s lead made little difference as Bishop found a way to climb back into the game. A double in the fifth inning brought one run home to make the score 4-3. Later in the inning Bishop tied up the game 4-4. The next inning Lindsay retook the lead for good.

For Lindsay head coach Brett Kendig it has been a long 26 years. An assistant coach on the 1992 championship team he has seen his Cardinals in the best and worst of times. And now as a championship winning head coach he takes more pride in his players become champs than himself. 

“This is not about me,” Kendig said. “I wanted it so much for these guys. They were so happy they almost didn’t know how to celebrate.”

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