The Templeton High baseball team had the league champions and one of the top teams in Division 4 on the ropes, and the Eagles let them get away.
That’s how the home team could feel following its 6-5, 11-inning loss to Santa Ynez on Friday — a game in which Templeton led 4-2 with two outs to go for the win in the seventh inning.
But with less than a week until the CIF-Southern Section playoffs begin, the Eagles are opting to put it past them as quickly as possible and chalk up the heart-breaking defeat to the Pirates doing what they’ve done all year — finding a way to win.
“It’s a bummer,” Templeton senior Spencer Howard said, “but they are undefeated in league for a reason. I was really pumped; I thought we were going to have that one. It just didn’t go our way.”
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Santa Ynez leadoff hitter Colby Barrick laced a one-out, two-run triple that tied the score in the seventh inning, and he eventually scored the winning run on a sacrifice bunt in the 11th as the Pirates finished the regular season 24-1 and 12-0 in the Los Padres League.
The game-tying hit came on an 0-2 pitch from Howard, who tried to blow his 85-plus mph fastball past the left-hander.
“I tried to get a two-seam running away,” Howard said, “but I got a little bit too much of the plate and he just roped it.”
Barrick scored on a ground ball a batter later to give Santa Ynez — ranked No. 1 in Division 4 by Cal-Hi Sports — a 5-4 lead and all the momentum against a team and crowd that was energized from the first pitch.
The Eagles picked themselves up in the bottom of the seventh, rallying with two outs to send the game into extra innings.
No. 9 hitter Patrick Wall provided the spark with an infield single, and the next two batters reached on a hit-by-pitch and a walk. With the bases loaded and the count 0-2, Jake Walsh was hit in the arm by a hanging curveball to tie the score at 5.
“The thing I liked about it is, these guys didn’t give up,” said Templeton coach Brad Macomber, whose team finished second in the league. “We were up, and then they scored those three runs. I know a lot of teams that would have folded the tent.”
Howard, who is hitting a team-best .312, connected on the next pitch, but the Santa Ynez right fielder barely had to move to snag his line drive.
“When Spencer hit that ball, I thought the game was over,” Macomber said. “It just happened to be right at the guy. If that ball is a little bit to the side either way, he’s not getting to it because it was hit that well.”
Howard struck out the side in the eighth, and fellow reliever Jordan Bernal came on in the ninth to get two outs with a runner on.
Templeton’s best chance to score in extras came in the 10th, when Walsh hit a one-out double to left- center and Zachary Torra intentionally walked Howard. But Torra, a sophomore who entered the game with a 7-0 record and a 0.83 ERA, got Mac Lardner to fly out and struck out Justin Altamirano to end the threat.
Barrick led off the next inning with a ground-rule double to right field, and Brock Dickey’s sacrifice squeeze brought him home.
Torra sent the Eagles down in order in the bottom half of the 11th to end an entertaining game that nearly outlasted the sunlight.
“League-wise it meant nothing, but you could tell that both teams wanted to go to the playoffs playing well,” Macomber said. “It was playoff atmosphere, and that’s what you want going into the playoffs. It was a fun one to be in.”
Lardner started on the mound and pitched five effective innings. The left-handed sophomore with a deceptive changeup allowed just one base runner through two innings until the Pirates took a 2-1 lead on a pair of two-out RBI singles in the third.
Lardner allowed just one hit over the next two innings, as Templeton retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth.
The Eagles loaded the bases with no outs against Santa Ynez starter Zach Snyder, and Altamirano tied the score with an RBI groundout to score Walsh. Bernal, a sophomore, followed by smacking the first pitch he saw into left field to score Howard and Lardner.
Howard pitched a perfect sixth and stuck out the first batter in the seventh. But a hit batter and a walk set the stage for Barrick, whose late-game heroics gave the Pirates an eight-game win streak heading into the playoffs.
Templeton (14-11, 8-4) is playoff bound as well, and Howard said he’s ready to weigh the positives from Friday’s game heavier than the negatives.
“I think we are already past it, to be honest,” he said. “We played a heck of a game. We’re really in a comfortable place right now heading into the playoffs. Eleven innings against a team undefeated in league — there’s not a lot of situations we won’t be prepared for.”