All game long, Templeton High played from behind against Lompoc in a battle for first place in the Los Padres League baseball race.
Until the bottom of the seventh inning.
That’s when Spencer Howard, the Eagles’ starting pitcher who struggled early, got to be hero at the plate.
Howard smashed a two-strike ground ball single to left with the bases loaded to give the Eagles (12-1, 5-0) a 6-5 victory over Lompoc.
Both teams entered with 4-0 league records, and the contest was fiercely fought throughout as Templeton rallied from a 4-0 deficit in the third inning before pulling out the come-from-behind thriller.
Howard went 3 for 4 with two doubles and the game-winning RBI. He also threw scoreless innings in the third, fourth and fifth to keep Templeton in it after allowing Lompoc (7-10-1, 4-1) four runs in the first two innings.
“To be honest, I didn’t have my best stuff today,” Howard said. “But as a team, we battled and everyone pulled together today to get this win. We knew this was a big game, and we just stuck with it.”
The junior right-hander used his live fastball and changeup to fool hitters but had trouble with his control early, walking batters and giving up some hits with runners on. But once Howard started getting ahead in the count, the results improved.
“I was really just waiting for our hitting to get going,” Howard said.
And it did in the bottom of the third as the Eagles rallied for three runs, which included an RBI single and a stolen base by centerfielder Michael Frigon, who’s now 18 for 18 in stolen bases and came into the game batting .641. Frigon was 1 for 3 Friday.
Senior first baseman Mitchell Pendley played a key role in the comeback by driving in a run in the fifth to make it 4-4. He hit a liner to right that the Lompoc right fielder dove for and missed. Pendley turned the hit into a triple after the ball rolled to the fence.
Then in the sixth, the big lefty his teammates call “Moose” came on in relief and induced a groundout for the final out before shutting down the Braves with a bases-loaded strikeout with two outs in the top of the seventh to set up Howard’s game-winner.
“This is by far the most exciting game of the year,” Pendley said. “They gave us some real good competition. Lompoc always comes to play.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Eagles shortstop Tyrus Yamagata got a clutch line-
drive single to right to knock in Templeton’s fifth run. Yamagata, who went 2 for 4, slapped the liner between the first and second basemen with two outs and his team down 5-4.
Templeton coach Brad Macomber said that he was thrilled with the way his team didn’t allow setbacks to get them down.
Besides overcoming the early deficit, Macomber noted right fielder Andy Garretson’s single up the middle to lead off the seventh inning. With Pendley at the plate, he gave Garretson the sign to run but the 6-foot-5 outfielder with wheels got thrown out stealing for the first out.
“A lot of teams, I think, would have been knocked back by that, and figured the game would go into extra innings,” Macomber said. “But Pendley got the walk, Justin Syracuse got his double, and they bounced right back.”
With two strikes on him and the bases loaded with one out, Howard said his goal was to put the ball in play and do his job.
“I touched first base, and my coach gave me hug,” Howard said. “That’s when I saw everyone running toward me (for the victory celebration).”