In his final at-bat of the day, Arroyo Grande High’s Gunnar Gomez got to live a childhood dream.
“It’s like being in your backyard, with two outs, bottom of the seventh,” he said.
But in Tuesday’s CIF-Southern Section Division 2 wild-card game against Pasadena, the situation was a little different. He was up with two runners on and one out. The score was tied.
When he spotted a fastball on the outside, the right-hander swung as hard as he could to send in Garrett Ball from second base for the game-winning run in the Eagles’ 5-4 home victory. They move on to a first-round game at Palos Verdes (21-8) on Thursday afternoon.
“I was lucky it was me,” Gomez said about being the game’s hero.
The Eagles (15-11) unexpectedly found themselves in such a nail-biting situation, considering they were ahead 4-0 after three innings. Pasadena (13-11) scored two runs on two hits and one error in the sixth before adding two more runs in the seventh on two hits and two errors.
But Arroyo Grande remained calm in the bottom of the seventh. In the process, the Eagles put aside four errors.
“It’s another example that you should never give up,” Eagles coach Brad Lachemann said. “The game’s never over. Keep playing hard.”
Ball started the rally with a line drive up the middle, which was followed by Jordan Morrison’s opposite-side shot to left field. After a pop fly in foul territory, it was Gomez’s turn.
He entered the game batting .481.
“He’s our best hitter,” Lachemann said of Gomez. “He’s got our best average for the year. He’s been our go-to guy, so if we got into that situation, that’s the guy we want to bat.”
Gomez’s hit went over the Pasadena right fielder’s head, giving Ball more than enough room to score.
“I was completely confident” in Gomez, Morrison said. “Gunnar has been hot all year. He’s a great hitter. Right man, right spot for us.”
Gomez, Morrison, Ball and Mike Fisher all finished with two hits apiece for the Eagles, who jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning. They scored on three hits, two errors and slick base running, with Morrison sliding into home from second base after Pasadena infielders tried to catch Chris Davidson between first and second only to hit Davidson on the throw.
The Eagles added another run in the third, thanks to Tyler Auerbach’s RBI single.
Arroyo Grande’s Daniel Ramirez pitched six solid innings with three strikeouts during a warm afternoon before Gavin Smith came in to relieve with a 4-4 tie. Smith forced a ground out, and then struck out Pasadena’s Brandon Cox.
“They put us in some uncomfortable situations,” Gomez said about the Bulldogs. “Our team responded well. No one got on each other. We were all there for each other.”