East ends 4-year losing streak
By Patrick Dillon
visalia – For the first time since 2012, the East team can call themselves winners of the Exeter Lions Club East/West All Star Game. On Wednesday, June 7, the East defeated the West 4-2 at Recreation Park. In the end, the plays by Tulare Western’s Wyatt Gilbert both on the mound and at the plate secured the win for the East. As well, Gilbert received the game’s most valuable player award. The trend of low scoring games continued for the second year in a row following up 2015’s five-run total.
“It was a pretty good team effort today. We knew we were underdogs,” said Exeter’s Alex Lagrutta. “It was a nice way to end high school.”
The East got the bats swinging early in the bottom of the first when Gilbert hit a lead-off triple to left center field. Gilbert’s teammate Blaze Hickey was the next batter up and drove Gilbert home on a ground out to Golden West’s Zac Legarreta at second.
That was the first of two runs that Gilbert scored in the game as he finished with a triple and a double. On the mound, Gilbert threw three scoreless innings.
The East squad built on its lead in the bottom of the fifth. Lagrutta led off with a single to shallow right. Next up was Porterville’s Isaiah Gomez, who tripled to center after the ball bounced over a West outfielder’s glove. That scored Lagrutta all the way from first to make it 2-0.
Strathmore’s Brandon Delk struck out for the first out. Porterville’s Jake Hernandez hit a fly ball to left for the second out but the sacrifice fly allowed Gomez to score from third to make it 3-0. That run ended up winning the game and ending the losing streak.
With the shutout still going one inning later, the East team added an insurance run off the bat of Lindsay’s Jesus Espinoza. Granite Hill’s Derek Steidley drew a walk before Gilbert came back into the game as a pinch runner for Steidley. After a flyout to left, Espinoza stepped up to bat and got his only hit of the game, a double to right field. That drove in Gilbert to make it 4-0.
“I knew I had to make the most of every at bat,” said Espinoza. “I’m glad I was able to come in clutch and get that run in.”
The West team finally ended the shutout in the top of the seventh inning. After their team led off with a triple a sacrifice fly ball brought him in to score. Two batters later Hanford’s Jason McBride drove in fellow West Yosemite League competitor Lagrutta to make it 4-2.
The West’s defense was too strong behind their pitching to allow any more runs, otherwise the margin of victory might have been more than just two runs. Earlier in the game, Lindsay’s Robert Gomez tried to stretch a single into a double and got thrown out in the bottom of the second. In the bottom of the sixth, Exeter’s Brandon Ayres tried to stretch a double into a triple and got thrown out.
One of the many pitchers that the East team used during the game was Exeter’s Seth Guinn. Recently named co-most valuable pitcher of the Central Sequoia League, Guinn only pitched the sixth inning. While his go-to pitch the curve ball wasn’t working he still used the defense behind him to get the outs.
“You just had to go pitch by pitch and hopefully get the win,” said Guinn.
The bottom of the seventh opened with a flyout to center field, followed by a flyout to Lagrutta in right. Ayres got the last out of the game when he caught Hanford West’s Rex Ryan trying to steal third.