East County Sports

3-run HR by Poway grounds Grossmont



By Nick Pellegrino
ECS staff writer

POWAY — The Olympic javelin was once decided by a distance of a single millimeter between the top two heaves.

In the early years of electronic timing, a second-place finisher was once awarded top prize when it was determined a swimmer’s hand hit the dimple of the touch pad, thus traveling a farther distance.

In other words, how close is close?

A tenth of a second? A hundredth? A thousandth? If distance, the width of a piece of paper??

The humbling season for the Grossmont Foothillers bounded on such frontiers in the CIF baseball playoffs.

With the Hillers just one pitch away from an upset road victory, instead, Poway catcher Austin Butler smashed a 3-run, walk-off home run, landing the Titans a 4-3 decision in the San Diego Section Division I tournament. Butler punished a 3-2 pitch over the center field fence, depriving Grossmont of a complete-game victory by Jake Holman.

As the famous book/motion picture idiom goes, indeed, “the Butler did it.”

Whether among the starters or the bullpen, Grossmont has always seemed to be one arm short all season. However, Holman came on late in the season with several sharp efforts, so the coaching staff allowed him to press on to get one final out; one final strike.

With two down and a pair of Poway runners on base, the Hillers had a choice: pitch to Butler, or walk him to load the bases but face Titans star Nick Cook, the cleanup hitter for the ultimate match-point situation.

Was either choice correct?

For Butler, the blast capped his 3-for-3 day at the plate. The ever-dangerous Cook, however, went 0-for-2 with a walk.

Poway held an early 1-0 lead, but Grossmont stormed back with three markers in the sixth to forge into the lead off Poway pitcher Ryan Kroepel.

Like the Titans, the go-ahead runs came with a single swing of the bat.

The Hillers’ hottest hitter, River Diaz De Leon, opened the inning with a sharp, line double to the gap in left-center field. Barron Zamora followed with a one-out walk.

Two pitches later,Grossmont left fielder Noah Barnes pumped a 3-run homer to center field for a 3-1 advantage. It was one of only five hits yielded by Kroepel.

With the triumph, Poway (15-15 overall) advances to Friday’s winners bracket semifinals against Cathedral Catholic (14-16), which scored an upset on the road over arch-rival St. Augustine, 10-7.

Grossmont (11-17-1) next meets the top-seeded Saints on Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Hickman Field, located “next to the trailer (mobile home) park” in Kearny Mesa in a challengers bracket semifinal/elimination contest.


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