The Bakersfield Christian High baseball team had three extra base hits plus several hard-hit singles during its Central Section Division IV quarterfinal playoff game against Golden Valley.
However, arguably the biggest offensive blow landed by the No. 3 Eagles during their 11-4 victory over the No. 11 Bulldogs on Thursday came on a ball that landed only a couple of feet in front of home plate.
Clinging to a 4-3, lead with the bases loaded and one out in the sixth inning, Cole Wattenbarger laid down a perfect squeeze bunt that scored a pair of runs.
The play sparked a seven-run inning for BCHS, which improved to 11-2 against the Bulldogs since 2008.
The Eagles are 18-5 since starting the year 1-6.
“I’ve been working on (bunting) ever since I was little,” Wattenbarger said. “I’ve always been a good bunter…I knew I had to get it down no matter what.”
BCHS (19-11) earned its first berth in the section semifinals since 2013 and will travel to face No. 2 Exeter on Tuesday for a spot in the D-IV title game.
Despite the lopsided final score, getting past the Bulldogs (14-15) wasn’t easy for BCHS.
After taking a 1-0 lead on a second-inning bases-loaded walk by Noah Granillo, the Eagles extended their advantage to 4-0 with three runs in third inning.
Kaidin Conrad and Milo Villalobos lead off the frame with back-to-back singles and then scored on a throwing error by Golden Valley starting pitcher Anthony Cuellar. The Eagles’ third run of inning came via a sacrifice by Kyle Langston.
The four-run lead appeared like it would be more than enough cushion for Conrad, BCHS’ starting pitcher.
The 6-foot senior right-hander gave up just four hits during his first four innings on the mound. He got into a trouble in both the second and fourth innings but was able to work his way out it, unscathed, each time.
The Bulldogs eventually got to Conrad, scoring one run in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth to knock him out of the game.
Trailing 4-3, Golden Valley didn’t stay within striking distance of the lead for long.
Cuellar walked the first three BCHS batters of the sixth inning setting the stage for Wattenbarger’s clutch squeeze bunt.
After that, the floodgates opened and BCHS scored five more times to extend its lead to 11-3.
BCHS’ scoring outburst was keyed by an RBI double by Villalobos and run-scoring triples by Conrad and Roman Angelo.
“They were scrappy,” BCHS coach Mark Ratekin said. “They never went away. We kind of opened it up in the sixth inning. Kaidin kind of struggled today. He didn’t have his best command today, but he worked his way out of a lot of tough situations. We had three errors which isn’t not typical for us. It wasn’t our best game, but they did what they had to do to win.”
Conrad finished the game 4 for 4 with two runs scored and one RBI. He was also the winning pitcher. He went 5 1/3 innings on the mound, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks while racking up five strikeouts.
Angelo pitched the final 1 2/3 inning for BCHS and earned a save.
“I struggled in the later innings, getting a little bit tired,” Conrad said. “…I got nervous in the sixth (inning) when they scored those two runs. We were up by one and I was like, ‘Oh, oh this could be bad.’ But Roman came in a shut them down and we exploded in the sixth.”
Cuellar and Ruben Estrada had two hits apiece for Golden Valley, which went 3 for 18 (.167) with runners on base.
“We left too many runners on base,” Golden Valley coach Mike Gibson said. “They’re a good team and our errors were really costly.”