East County Sports

Cougar Marrero squeezes one-hitter





By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

REDLANDS —- You might call Steele Canyon junior Ray Marrero a transitional pitcher.

Marrero is the one who gets the call when the starting pitcher can’t go more than three or four innings, or he becomes the set-up man before the bullpen closers get summoned.

Thus, he only pitches one or two innings at a time, yet it was a job he did well.

At the end of the season, when other Cougars’ pitches were tiring or being saved for stronger opponents, Marrero was rewarded for his strong role-playing with a pair of starts, albeit against last-place opposition.

On Tuesday (June 22), with the season extended even farther than usual with the first-ever CIF Southern California regional (besides the pandemic situation), the right-hander again received the starting nod from the Steele Canyon coaching staff.

Talk about transitions.

In just his third varsity start, Marrero fired a one-hitter, leading the fifth-seeded Cougars past host Citrus Valley, 1-0, in the quarterfinals of the Division IV regional. Marrero only struck out four Blackhawks batters, yet was in control all afternoon, yielding just one walk and hitting a batter.

“(Catcher) Jake (Entrekin) called the whole game,” Marrero said. “All I needed to do was to execute the pitches that were called. Jake had the hard part by knowing hitters’ certain tendencies and what to throw in certain counts. But all in all, I believe that because I pounded strikes today, I was able to perform as well as I did.”

The Cougars’ scorekeeper reportedly scored the game as a no-hitter, but the home scorebook gave the Blackhawks credit for a bunt single in the second inning, which appeared to be a correct decision.

With one out and the runner at first moving on the pitch, Citrus Valley’s Josh Torres dropped a drag bunt down the third baseline.

Steele Canyon third baseman Weston Clark was playing at normal depth and couldn’t make a barehand play to first, however, he alertly pump-faked to first and diverted his throw to second base, which allowed for a tag play by senior Travis Eccher after the runner appeared to be committed to running first-to-third should Clark try to make a play on the batter. The tag was applied as the runner attempted to dive back to the bag from the third-base side.

Steele Canyon (23-11) established a new school record for victories in a season.

The contest’s lone run came in the first inning, almost in throw-away fashion figuring both sides would score more than what actually transpired.

Senior shortstop Sebastian Granados opened the contest by getting hit by a 3-1 pitch.

One out later, Granados stole a pair of bases, then came home on a ground out to shortstop by Entrekin for the game-winning RBI.

“Ray really put the team in his back today and carried us to a win,” Entrekin said. “Great game for him to step up. It was a pitcher’s duel with lots of soft contacts and pitching to contact. Low pitch counts for both pitchers. I wouldn’t even say it was a grind only about an hour and a half but it was fun and we played loose. Hopefully, we can take this to the next game and hopefully add some offense.”

Citrus Valley (22-8) saw sophomore pitcher Jacob Jacome allow just three hits over 6 1/3 innings, also registering four strikeouts.

Granados had one of the Cougars’ hits, along with designated hitter Issac Vargas and center fielder Will James.

Steele Canyon will advance to Thursday’s semifinals, meeting the Royal Highlanders (23-5) of Simi Valley.

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