Things became real tense today at a packed Cartan Field as the Menlo Oaks almost let a 9-3 8th inning lead go by the wayside, narrowly holding on for a 9-8 victory over Biola University. With the contest seemingly in hand, Menlo took a five run lead into the 8th and Manager Matt Daily called on his bullpen to try to get the game's final six outs. However Oaks' relievers' Derek Rodriguez and Sean Sweeney faltered out of the gates and almost surrendered the lead after a two out three run home run by Biola catcher Mike Lopez made it 9-8.
Although things became dicey, Daily made sure his team kept their composure on their way to taking care of business. "We figured it was going to be that kind of a game. We knew no lead was real safe, but we just don't want to be on that emotional roller coaster," claimed Daily. "We just needed to try and stay the course because we were confident with the arms we have available. Good teams find a way to win these games."
One of those "arms" was Oaks' closer Chris Mazza who came on in the 9th looking to try to shut the door on the Eagles' comeback bid. Mazza, who played the first eight innings at shortstop going 1 for 2 with two walks and an rbi, was ready for the challenge. "My role is the closer on this team so I went out there and just tried to throw strikes and let the defense do the rest," said Mazza on the tense situation.
Things became tenser when the junior from Calyton, CA allowed a leadoff single to Biola shortstop Boone Farrington to bring the potential go ahead run to the plate in left fielder Benji Sutherland. Yet Mazza didn't waiver, striking out Sutherland and then getting Vinnie Fayard to hit into a game ending double play to seal the deal.
With the solid inning of work, Mazza picks up his first save of the season and in the process secures the first win of the season for Menlo ace Adam Koontz. Koontz, who led the team in victories and strikeouts last season, threw a stellar game allowing only two earned on six hits, walking one and striking out seven over his seven innings of work. Although it might have looked easy, according to Koontz today's performance was a struggle early. "I felt like I started slow. It took me a little time to get going but I picked up some steam as the game went on," commented the senior from San Lorenzo. "I ended up locating the ball well and the offense really did a great job."
The offense really did do a great job today aided by two clutch two out three run home runs, one by third baseman Michael Brandi and the other by catcher Ty Finley. Finley's bomb, which came in the 4th inning, broke a 2-2 tie and swung the momentum in Menlo's favor. After the game Finely took us through his critical at bat. "I was just looking to get a hit in that situation to try to give my team the lead. I knew it was gone off the bat," claimed Finley.
With today's hard fought victory, the Oaks move their record to 4-1 on the young season. Menlo will have a few days off to regroup before a big weekend series against San Francisco State. The opener of the set will begin this Friday February 11 at Cartan Field with first-pitch scheduled for 2:00pm.