Ridgeview's hitters seemed to settle in as Friday afternoon's game went on.
The problem for the Wolf Pack was that Frontier's did the same thing — and, as it turned out, the Titans' offense improved to a much greater extent.
After Ridgeview got to Frontier starter Logan Judd for three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to claim a narrow lead, Frontier struck back in kind. Kaden Wright dropped a single in front of left fielder Keisyun Allen to score Joseph Gabaldon and tie the game.
Then, as reliever Ben Ullyott kept the Wolf Pack at bay, Jaycob Villalpando drew a go-ahead bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning and Wright brought two more runners home with another hit, leading Frontier to a hard-fought 6-3 road win.
“I think we just had guys clutch up in big spots," Frontier coach Brandon Boren said, "something that we’ve been struggling with all year.”
The headliners for the Titans were the senior second baseman Villalpando and the junior center fielder Wright. Both went 2-for-3, with Villalpando drawing two walks and sending a sixth-inning solo home run over the fence in left field as soon as Wolf Pack reliever Joel Gutierrez entered the game.
“I think their last two or three at-bats, they were just in the zone, came up with clutch hits (at) the big times," Boren said.
Villalpando's homer put the Titans up 2-0, after they had gotten just one combined run from bases-loaded opportunities in the previous two innings. In the fourth, Judd walked and Villalpando and Colby Gaither singled with two outs against starter Andres Rivera, but Grant Reynolds flew out to right field. Then, in the following inning, Frontier put three runners on with nobody out, but Ullyott — at that point in the game still playing catcher — grounded into a double play, so only one came home.
Ridgeview, meanwhile, had come up empty after accumulating just three hits in the first five innings facing Judd, who had previously only allowed three runs all season.
The Wolf Pack chased him in the sixth, however. Jordan Brito and Adam Salazar reached base at the top of the lineup, and cleanup hitter Princeton Childs smacked a double to the wall in left-center field to score them both and tie the game. Jared Robles singled the opposite way for the go-ahead hit, bringing Ullyott onto the mound.
After allowing a quick single, Ullyott retired eight of the 10 remaining batters on the way to his first win of the season.
Boren said Ullyott wasn't expected to serve as the closer entering the year, but has proved himself worthy of the role by demonstrating mental toughness.
“I have as much confidence in him as anybody," Boren said. "He’s an all-around phenomenal player.”
Ridgeview took its third narrow loss in four games after opening the year 5-0. Robles and Adan Rivera each went 2-for-4 for the Wolf Pack.
Frontier improved to 7-3 with the back-and-forth victory.
“I think we proved that we can grind out at-bats," Boren said. "When the chips are down and it's tied, in a close game when the other team has momentum, we have to gain that momentum back."
Both teams will open league play Wednesday, with Frontier at home against Garces and Ridgeview playing host to Bakersfield Christian.
“I told them, ‘Every league game’s going to be like that,'" Boren said.