After Sonoma State runners advanced into scoring position on two separate wild pitches in the bottom of the ninth, third baseman Jeff Boulware scored on a walk-off balk, ending the Coyote’s season in a 3-2 loss.
The uneventful call given by homeplate umpire Rob Hansen was at the expense of Coyote reliever Josh Pond, who had just struck out pinch-hitter Danny Dworkin, putting the ‘Yotes one out away from winning their first CCAA tournament game since 2002.
The heartbreaking bottom of the ninth came after the Coyotes had back-to-back two-out hits that scored their only two runs of the game. Senior first baseman Brandon Day hit a single to left field, scoring pinch-runner Jeff Terzo. The next at-bat resulted in senior starting catcher Paul Eshleman hitting a high fly ball to right field that carried and eventually hit off the wall, giving the Coyotes a 2-1 lead on an RBI-triple.
The Coyotes were retired on the next at-bat and handed the ball over to left-handed reliever Kerry Kelley for the save, who had a 1.27 ERA going into the tournament.
Sonoma State’s Steven Filippi singled and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. With one out, Kelley threw a wild pitch, advancing the tying run 90 feet from scoring.
The next batter Jeff Boulware hit a ball that was fielded by defensive replacement Curtis Cassise. Hoping to keep the tying run from scoring, Cassise went home with a throw that sailed away from Eshleman. The unfortunate play also advanced the eventual game-winning run to second base before reaching third on another wild pitch, this time at the hand of replacement reliever Josh Pond.
Boulware then scored the unearned game-winning run after Pond was called for starting and stopping his wind-up without throwing a pitch, handing the ‘Yotes their second loss of the tournament and subsequent playoff elimination.
Senior starting pitcher Cory Caruso allowed only one-run throwing in eight solid innings, a notable performance for his last as a Coyote.
Although the game ended at a pitchers err, Coach Parnell cited other obstacles during the game, ”We did not have enough timely hits today and we had a couple of defensive lapses. It’s a tough way for the game to end.”
With the game’s end also comes the end to a season. The Coyotes faced elimination after losing to Chico State 7-2 in the first round of the tournament.
The 2012 season marks the team’s second playoff appearance in three years after exiting the 2010 playoff tournament in similar fashion.
Photos Courtesy of Matthew D. Gilford