Hillers beat Titans again in last at-bat

2021 EAST COUNTY PREP BASEBALL

 

By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer
EL CAJON —- Trailing 3-0, the Grossmont Foothillers came back by doing what they do best — smacking the long ball.

East County home run leader Isaiah Gomez drilled a 2-run homer in the sixth to force extra innings, then Noah Barnes rocketed a lead shot in the eighth, as the Grossmont Lumber Company stunned Eastlake, 4-3, to gain the edge for a championship game berth to the Bill Dickens-GMC Classic tournament.

Neither shot were cheap floaters, just line drive shots that sailed into the wind and beyond the left-field barrier at historic Gizoni Field.

For Gomez, his 2-run shot was his sixth of the season. The catcher, who threw out a base-runner, also entered Wednesday’s (Apr. 21) action with East County top batting average among Upper Division schools.

Barnes’ next at-bat placed an end to an extremely quick “overtime” session.

“I was once again in a great position to contribute,” Barnes said. “I hit it solid and got just enough of it to get it over for a home run. Off the bat, I was thinking solid drive down the line and it just carried the rest of the way. The team was pumped and it was seeing Coach Abruzzo’s smile and all the guys hyped as I was rounding third.”

Starting pitcher Jaden Wilcox needed a few innings to find his rhythm, yielding a two-run homer to Eastlake cleanup hitter Ethan Lizama in the third for a 3-0 lead. Afterward, Wilcox allowed just three additional hits in his seven strong innings, including a touch-and-throw double-play grounder to shortstop Reggie Williams.

Although he left with no decision — Romero collected the win with his perfect inning — there were no complaints from Wilcox.

“Gotta love the close ones because it makes it more entertaining,” Wilcox quipped. “Gomez and Barnes stepped up with huge home runs in great spots. Love playing with this team. The energy is unmatched. We still have a big rematch on Saturday (the third meeting with Eastlake). We’re looking forward to the rest of the season.”

For Romero, the appearance was just his second this season, missing most of the early season with an injury.

“It felt amazing being back on the mound especially after my injury,” Romero said. “Big credit to Jaden for throwing his seven strong innings.

“When we saw Noah’s ball had a chance to go out, we started going crazy. Credit to him for getting the job done. I was ready to go out there in the ninth but I had trust in our guys to finish the game and that’s exactly what they did.”

Grossmont’s comeback started in the fourth when Justin Brown slapped a two-out single to left, scoring on an RBI double by Caleb Hommel that went over the head of the centerfielder.

Titans pitcher Ray Cebulski went all seven-plus innings, yielding six hits. However, three of the knocks went for extra bases to account for all of the Hillers’ scoring.

Grossmont (13-2 overall) completes pool play at 4-1, including a pair of victories in extra frames. The loss was to Point Loma, but the Pointers faltered and went 2-3 in pool competition.

Eastlake (10-4) matched the Hillers with a 4-1 pool mark but obviously lost the head-to-head tie-breaker. Meanwhile, Lizama batted 2-for-4 with two RBI and a pair of runs scored, maintaining his batting average at .500 against Grossmont District schools this season.

It was Grossmont’s second walk-off win over Eastlake 11 days. Grossmont won, 10-9, back on April 10.

“Always a big game if we’re facing Eastlake and now we are 2-0 against them,” Barnes said.

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