East County Sports

ROUNDUP: Verdugo, Braves end Lions’ streak; ‘Hawks win

2019 EAST COUNTY PREP BASEBALL

EastCountySports.com staff report

EL CAJON VALLEY – No team has been able to stop the Liberty Charter Lions over the last month.

That is, until the El Cajon Valley Braves stepped in to end the Lions’ nine-game winning streak on Thursday, posing a 6-0 shutout thanks to senior Robert Verdugo and Co.

Verdugo, a seasoned three-year veteran on the Braves varsity, had the brightest performance of his already successful career.

Verdugo allowed one hit over six innings, striking out 12, and hit an inside-the-park home run as part of a 4-for-4 performance at the plate from the leadoff spot, which resulted in three runs scored.

“Our game plan was to be aggressive on all parts – offense, defense, base running, and pitching,” El Cajon Valley head coach Clifton Thomas said. “We wanted to put the pressure on them, and we did that all game.”

Aaron Rodriguez tripled home a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning, scoring Verdugo and Greg Sanchez (single).

Sanchez also drove in a run in the second for a 3-0 advantage.

Meanwhile, Verdugo was pitching a no-hitter despite issuing a few walks along the way.

“We forced them to play our game and it worked,” Thomas said. “Defensively, we were flawless. For the first time all season we played error-free ball. And Robert Verdugo dominated on the mound today.”

Liberty’s Jake Gastelum broke up the no-hitter with an infield single to lead off the sixth.

Mario Jacobs singled home two more in the last of the sixth for the final runs. He also stole a pair of bags.

“My coaching staff and I were very impressed with the way our guys played today,” Thomas said.

Sanchez closed the game out in the seventh, including a pair of strikeouts.

Verdugo is hitting .440 this season and is a lifetime .348 hitter for the Braves. The home run was the first of his career.

Liberty Charter freshman pitcher Isaiah Hilke went the distance, striking out 11 Braves.

MOUNTAIN EMPIRE 4, GOMPERS PREP 1: Ever since Gompers Prep Middle School added a high school program — now renamed Gompers Prep Academy — and became a charter school partnership with UC San Diego, the Eagles have never posted a winning record in baseball in 10 previous seasons.

However, here was a chance for the Eagles to move above .500 for the first time since the 2014 ballclub finished 8-8 in their final contest before entering league play when they entertained Mountain Empire on Thursday (Apr. 4).

But the RedHawks – a team searching for a game once again this week after Borrego Springs couldn’t field a team for a pair of league contests – had other ideas.

At Chollas View, utilizing basic fundamentals to score a pair of important runs in the 7th inning, the RedHawks earned a 4-1 decision over Gompers Prep.

Entering the 7th with a 2-1 lead — interestingly, all three runs scored on passed balls — Trevor Elliott walked and stole two bases, then Jacobe Noland walked and stole second base.

Samm Jones followed with a sacrifice fly to center field for an RBI to bring home Elliott. Angel Jiminez followed with a ground ball to the right side to score Noland.

It wasn’t an exciting way to score, but when you execute properly, satisfaction comes with the victory.

Instead of Gompers, it was Mountain Empire (5-4) which climbed above the .500 plateau, also thanks to fine effort by a pitching staff which combined to fire a 1-hitter.

Elliott, the RedHawks starter, pitched six solid innings by striking out 11.

Obviously, the 4th-inning run by Gompers Prep came unearned due to the passed ball.

Among the strikeouts, all six outs in the 2nd and 3rd frames came on Ks, with a one-out walk issued in the 3rd.

Noland came on in relief and posted a see-saw effort to barely garner the save. After retiring the first two Eagles, he walked three to load the bases but escaped the jam with a game-ending strikeout.

For the RedHawks, along with Noland and Elliott, the other hits were by Damian Cruz-Gastelum (double) and Sean Hodge.

For the Eagles (2-3), the lone hit was a single by Ivan Salazar in the 4th, yet it did not contribute to the scoring.

Batting in front of Salazar was pinch hitter Francisco Ramirez, who walked, stole a pair of bags, then scored on a passed ball.

Eagles pitcher Jorge Ulloa, a senior right-hander, allowed just four hits in 6-plus innings, with two of the runs coming unearned — on each in the 5th and the 6th — in suffering the loss.

Gompers Prep opens Summit League play next Tuesday at Liberty Charter in Lemon Grove.

ST. AUGUSTINE 8, CHRISTIAN 0: At Mitchell Field, the visiting Saints completed a 2-game sweep by out-scoring the Patriots by a 19-1 margin to escape the cellar in the Western League.

It was a game of “sticks and stones” with only ones and zeroes on the scoreboard until St. Augustine posted a 5-spot to put away the victory.

Included was a 2-run homer by No. 8 hitter Luke Mansy, who went 2-for-3 and scored twice.

Meanwhile, Saints pitcher TJ Roeder yielded just three hits over his six innings, striking out four with one walk on a mere 66 pitches.

The lone hits for Christian (5-12) were registered by Peyton Berroth, Isaiah Owens and Trace Ramos.

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