SANTA MARIA — Sutton Tompkins saved the day for the Santa Maria-Righetti and ended the season for Liberty on the coast on Saturday.
In the Central Section Division I quarterfinals, Sutton and the No. 4-seeded Santa Maria-Righetti Warriors won in a walk-off over the fifth-seeded Patriots, 3-2, at Righetti.
Tomkins pitched five innings of shutout relief and ignited the game-winning rally in the bottom of the seventh.
“Sutton — hands down one of the greatest performances that I’ve ever seen from a pitcher,” said Righetti head coach Kyle Tognazzini. “It was impressive, unbelievable.”
Righetti (23-5) will host No. 8 Frontier (20-10) in the semifinals on Wednesday after Frontier ousted No. 1 seed Clovis-Buchanan (26-4) 1-0 on Friday.
Ryan Delgado took the mound for Righetti and had a rocky start, giving up both Liberty runs, leaving the game with the bases loaded and no outs in the third inning.
In the top of the first inning, Delgado gave up a lead-off single to Liberty’s Garrett Pavletich followed by a run-scoring double to Kaleb Dickey and the Patriots quickly had a 1-0 lead.
The Patriots (24-7) scored their second run in the second inning.
Brady Amble singled into left field. Amble rambled to third after an attempted pickoff throw got rolled to the fence and then Amble scored on a single to left by Pavletich.
Caleb Dulay started a short to first double play to end the inning, limiting the damage to one run.
Two walks and a single loaded the bases in the top of the third and Tognazzini pulled Delgado, having him swap places with third baseman Tomkins. That was not the last to be heard from Delgado.
“I came in confident, maybe too confident,” said Delgado. “But Sutton came on and got the game under control.”
Meanwhile, Tomkins didn’t just close the door on the Patriots — he slammed it.
Tomkins retired the next three batters to kill the Patriots’ threat.
He began with a strikeout, the first of five he threw in the game.
Tomkins was then helped by one of the best defensive plays of the game. Will Hernandez hit a shot to Righetti first baseman Isaiah Navarro, Navarro threw to catcher Andrew Gonzalez, nailing the lead runner at the plate and then Tomkins got out of the inning on a fly to right that kept it a one-run game.
“That play at the plate, that was a big one,” said Tognazzini. “Isaiah makes the throw and (catcher) Andrew Gonzalez makes the tag — that was huge for us.”
“We left some runs out there,” said Liberty head coach Tony Mills. “You know when you do that, it’s going to come back to haunt you. You can’t do that against a quality team like Righetti.”
After that, Tomkins was almost perfect, giving up a lead-off single in the fifth and had a runner get on base on an error with two outs in the seventh for the only baserunners he allowed.
“I was just trying to throw strikes,” said Tomkins. “I know a lot of these guys can’t handle my velocity so it was just concentrate on throwing strikes, relax and have fun.”
The Warriors tied the game in the bottom of the third after Navarro doubled off the left field fence and came home with an unearned run after an error on Quigley Espinola’s ground ball.
Righetti had runners in scoring position in both the fifth and sixth innings, but each time Liberty starting pitcher Nick Oscarson, who went the distance (10 hits, three runs, two strikeouts, three walks), induced a ground ball out to keep it a tie game … until the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, Tomkins hit a shot that nearly cleared the center field wall and Tomkins cruised into second base with a stand-up double.
And then the fireworks began.
Tomkins and several Liberty players began jawing at each other and both benches cleared, although the players from each team stayed away from each other and there was no melee. However, Tomkins was eventually tossed from the game with Bryan Rivera coming in to take Tomkins’ place on second.
When order was restored, Espinola was intentionally walked, setting up a force at any base. Liberty then retired the next batter.
With two outs, Delgado blasted the game-winning hit, a walk-off single to deep center field, scoring Rivera, ending the Patriots season.