With one swing, Sky Collins saved Buchanan’s season, helping the Bears avoid one of the biggest upsets in Central Section baseball playoff history.
In its first round matchup on Wednesday, No. 1 seed Buchanan was down to its final two outs, trailing 6-5 against No. 16 seed Righetti.
The Warriors (11-17), who lost 13 straight games entering the playoffs, faced the bottom of the Bears’ order in the seventh inning.
Evan Wallace led off the Buchanan rally with a double and advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Josh Williams. That brought Collins, the Bears’ No. 9 hitter, to the plate.
“I was just trying to get [Williams] in,” Collins said. “I was trying to hit a pop fly or hard ground ball up the middle to tie it.”
Collins sent the first pitch he saw over the center field wall, hitting a walk-off two-run home run to give Buchanan a 7-6 victory.
“On any given day,” said Buchanan head coach Brad Fontes, “you never know what’s going to happen in a high school baseball game.”
No. 1 Buchanan survives! Down 6-5 in the bottom of the 7th inning, Sky Collins drills a walk-off HR to center field. FINAL: Buchanan 7, Righetti 6. @Buchanan_Bears @bhs_sports13 @skycollins441 @CalHiSports pic.twitter.com/dI62H1ZUg2
— Gabe Camarillo (@gabecamarillo_) June 10, 2021
Buchanan (26-2), ranked as the No. 4 high school baseball team in the nation by Baseball America, fell into an early hole against Righetti. The Warriors scored five runs in the first two innings against Bears starter Colton O’Toole, pouncing on fastballs and laying off breaking balls that landed outside the strike zone.
Righetti turned a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 lead in the second inning with RBI singles from Matt Rivas and Andrew Gonzalez as well as a run-scoring wild pitch.
Collins led off the bottom of the second with a double and scored on Max Bernal’s RBI groundout. Temo Becerra followed up with an RBI single to tie the game at 5.
Austin Watson came out of the bullpen for Buchanan and pitched a scoreless third and fourth inning. Watson, however, committed a costly throwing error in the fifth that scored the go-ahead run for Righetti.
Righetti sophomore Omar Reynoso pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the third and stranded runners on base over the next three innings. Buchanan continued to make solid contact against Reynoso, often hitting line drives directly at Righetti defenders.
“The kids stayed hard headed and kept fighting,” Fontes said. “At some point, you hope in a seven-inning game, it’s a short game, that those line drives start to fall in a little bit.”
They did in the seventh inning, setting up for Collins’ dramatic game-winning blast.
As soon as Collins swung the bat, he jolted out of the batter’s box. Even after he saw the ball disappear over the fence for a split second before bouncing back on the field, Collins kept sprinting.
A smile grew from ear to ear as his sprint neared home plate, where his delirious Buchanan teammates awaited him.
“It was the best feeling I’ve ever had in high school,” Collins said.
Two outs away from suffering a monumental upset, Buchanan survived and advanced to the quarterfinal where they will host No. 8 seed Clovis West on Friday.
Clovis West rides big sixth inning to rout of Frontier
Freshman Tyler Patrick hit his first career home run on Wednesday, launching a three-run shot into the left field trees at Stan Bledsoe Field.
Patrick’s homer was part of a 10-run sixth inning that propelled No. 8 Clovis West to a 12-3 victory over No. 9 Frontier on Wednesday.
Clovis West blows it open. 2-RBI hits from Jacob Haros, Wyatt Gibson and Kaleb Latimer. Then, freshman Tyler Patrick goes yard for a 3-run bomb.
Clovis West 12, Frontier 2 after a 10-run sixth inning. pic.twitter.com/TF9AffeUrf
— Gabe Camarillo (@gabecamarillo_) June 10, 2021
Tyler’s father, head coach Kevin Patrick, is impressed with the offensive progress that Clovis West (17-10-1) has made over the season.
“I’ve told our guys all year long that we’re just one hit away from being really, really good, and hopefully this carries over into the next round,” Patrick said.
Frontier (8-8) scored a run in the first inning off starter Jacob Floth. Floth served as an “opener” for the Golden Eagles, pitching 2.2 innings before giving way to Patrick. Patrick pitched 3.1 innings and earned the win.
Cayden Munster hit a two-run double in the fourth to give Clovis West a 2-1 lead, but Frontier tied the game in the sixth when Patrick hit a batter with the bases loaded.
Clovis West scored the go-ahead run in the bottom half of the inning on a bases-loaded walk. Then the floodgates opened.
Jacob Haros, Wyatt Gibson and Kaleb Latimer each recorded two-RBI hits along with Patrick’s longball to sink Frontier.
Division-I Central Section baseball playoff scores — First round
Clovis 10, Centennial 2
Bullard 3, Central 0
Liberty 24, Clovis East 4
Stockdale 4, Tulare Western 2
Buchanan 7, Righetti 6
Clovis West 12, Frontier 3
Redwood 5, Clovis North 4
San Luis Obispo 7, San Joaquin Memorial 4
Division-I Central Section baseball playoff scores — Quarterfinals (Friday)
No. 8 Clovis West at No. 1 Buchanan
No. 13 Redwood at No. 5 Stockdale
No. 6 Liberty at No. 3 Bullard
No. 15 San Luis Obispo at No. 10 Clovis