Both teams struggled to get behind the ball, but the Gators would capitalize first with six runs in the first five innings of the game. After six innings of play, the Gators were forced to even out the infield due to players from both teams tripping on the uneven terrain and funny hops on balls hit in the dirt. Popped-up balls got the best of both the Gators and the Pioneers, which cost both teams in runs scored.
“We just didn’t do a very good job of catching those,” said head coach Mike Cummins. “And those are plays we normally make.”
It was a rough first half for the Pioneers as the East Bay rivals dropped to a quick three-run deficit in the bottom of the second inning. With third baseman Andrew Suvunnachuen waiting at second and Devon King waiting at third, Gator first baseman AJ Pianto banged a single straight to Pioneer third baseman Kyle Zozaya, but the ball went through his legs, allowing King to get to third base and Suvunnachuen to pick up the run. Shortly after, AJ Almaraz hit a double to the outfield sending home Pianto and King.
The Gators snuck in three more runs to seal the fate of CSU East Bay. Left-fielder Ivan Otsuka’s singled, sending home King during the last half of the fourth inning. During the bottom of the fifth, catcher Matt Quintero reached home plate on a fielding error by Pioneer first baseman Andrew Wolfe. Then Suvunnachuen picked up the unearned run when Almarez was walked with the bases loaded.
During the first half of the sixth inning, Pioneer designated-hitter Jordan Wilder scored on Zozaya’s single and second baseman Eddie Rettagliata managed to tag home plate when catcher David Castillo swung into a double play. The Gator defense fell apart in the top of the seventh, which allowed the Pioneers to pick up three more runs.
“We went up by six runs so we started feeling a little relaxed,” said shortstop Miguel Flores. “Which obviously we should never do, we should just keep going.”
It looked like the Pioneers would pull out the comeback during the top of the ninth when first baseman Andrew Woolfe hit a fly ball deep to left field with a runner in scoring position. Knowing the game was on the line, center-fielder Dustin Wold leaped into the ball’s route to make an “Angels in the Outfield” play for the out and sealing the Gator’s victory.
“Thankfully we only let them get five” Otsuka said. “We got that one that we needed so it turned out all right.”