| August 5, 2021
LINCOLN, CA - With elimination on the line Thursday morning, the Conejo Oaks dug deep and pulled out a gutsy win over the Lincoln Potters by a score of 5-2 in 10 innings.
After enduring an 11-2 loss to the San Luis Obispo Blues in the early game yesterday, Conejo had to get right back at it against a team they hadn’t played all season.
“We just prepared like we usually do, and we knew we had to get going,” said Oaks second baseman Grant Smith (University of Incarnate Word). “We trusted the guys on the mound, and we showed up today.”
The Oaks jumped on Potters starter Jack Horn (George Washington) in the second inning. With Brendan Durfee (Cal Lutheran) smacking a lead off double, TJ Foreman (Austin Peay) lined a single up the middle to bring in the game’s first run. Two batters later, Greg Mehlhaff (Pepperdine) added an RBI single of his own to give the Oaks an early 2-0 lead.
Conejo sent righty Donovan Waitman (Pierce College) out to the mound in their second game, and he came out on fire. He worked through the first nine batters without allowing a baserunner, getting into a rhythm and forcing lots of quick outs. He had just 19 pitches through the first three frames.
Waitman got some help from his defense in the fourth. After striking out the leadoff man, Lincoln’s Daniel Susac (Arizona) put a charge into one deep to left field, but Hunter Call (Santa Barbara City College) jumped up to grab it on the warning track. The very next batter smashed one into the gap in left-center that center fielder Raul Sandoval (UC Davis) laid out to snag, preserving Waitman’s perfect game.
Lincoln responded with a web gem of their own. With Smith on first, Durfee lined a double down the left field line that Smith tried to score on. He didn’t account for the cannon in left field, and Jason Brandow (Cal State Fullerton) unleashed a seed right to catcher Carson Blatnick (Sacramento State) who tagged Durfee out at the plate.
The Potters finally got a hit in the fifth, courtesy of Chase Stanke (Minnnesota), but he was erased quickly due to a double-play ball from Brandow. Lincoln was able to load the bases with two outs in the frame, but Waitman got Jack Grant (Arizona) to pop out to end the threat.
Down 2-0, the Potters got some two-out magic in the sixth. After Waitman walked Garret Forrester (Oregon State), Stanke delivered again with an RBI double into left-center. Waitman was pulled for Brent Jacques (Cal State LA) after the hit, who struck out Jacob Shaver (Arizona) to strand two baserunners.
They would get another rally going in the seventh. Trevor Haskins (Stanford) led off with a double and came home to score on a sacrifice fly by Blatnick to tie the game up at two runs apiece.
The Potters bullpen was stellar in relief of Horn. Logan Bell (Bowling Green State) and Marlin Brucato (William Jessup University) combined to pitch 4.2 one-hit innings, keeping the Oaks off the scoreboard. Lucas Wepf (Louisiana Monroe) struckout the side in the ninth, giving Lincoln a chance to walk it off in the bottom half.
Clayton Rickerman (Cal Lutheran) had other plans. He went through the bottom of the Potters order without a hitch, striking out the last two.
Starting with a runner on second and one out, as per CCL State Championship rules, the Potters elected to walk Oaks left-handed first baseman Brendan Bobo (Cal State Fullerton) to face Smith. Wepf left a fastball up in the zone, and Smith made him pay for it. He crushed the 0-2 pitch over the foul pole in left field for the go-ahead, three-run homer.
“I just tried to clear my head,” Smith said. “I kinda thought they would walk Brendan (Bobo), so I was getting ready in the hole, and came up and saw a good pitch and put a good swing on it.”
Rickerman shut the door in the ninth, solidifying the Oaks 5-2 win and giving them a match-up with the top seeded Healdsburg Prune Packers. That game is scheduled to start around 2:30pm at McBean Stadium in Lincoln.
Player of the Game: Grant Smith
HR, 3 RBI, R
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