With two balls, two strikes and two outs in a 2-2 game, the deuces truly were wild for Fountain Valley High baseball senior Daniel Patzlaff on Friday afternoon.
Patzlaff, who wears jersey No. 2 for the Barons, saw a pitch he liked in the top of the fourth inning. It was down and in, but he managed to hit it out to right field.
The two-run home run was — you guessed it — Patzlaff's second round-tripper of the season. And it helped the Sunset League-leading Barons earn their second win over Newport Harbor in three days, 4-2, at the Sailors' field.
The Sailors need their own numbers to turn around in a hurry if they want to return to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs for the first time in four years.
Newport Harbor (10-12, 3-8 in league) remains alone in fourth place in the six-team league, after Marina lost to Huntington Beach on Friday. But, with just four league games remaining, the Sailors also need at least a .500 overall record to qualify for an at-large berth into CIF.
"We need three wins in four games," said Sailors Coach Evan Chalmers, whose team plays at Los Alamitos on Wednesday. "It's exciting to be in the hunt, now we've got to take advantage. We've got to get after it and find a way to drive guys in, that's the bottom line. I'm very proud of the effort, just we're so close. I don't think that pitcher was that dominant, for us to only get two [runs] out of the deal."
Fountain Valley Coach Deric Yanagisawa admitted that his starter, senior Scott Schultz, didn't have his best stuff. Schultz still improved to 10-0 for the Barons (16-6, 10-1), who are ranked No. 3 in Division 1 and top-ranked in Orange County by the Register. This was true, even as the Sailors struck early.
Newport's Connor Seabold led off the bottom of the first with a single to center, then Logan Mahaffy bunted and reached on a fielding error. Shaun Vetrovec walked to load the bases, before Tk McWhertor hit an RBI groundout to second base. After Jonah Dipoto walked, Luke Genova's sacrifice fly to center scored Mahaffy, and the hosts had a 2-0 lead.
It lasted into the top of third, when the UC Irvine-bound Vetrovec, the Sailors' starting pitcher, battled with his control. He walked his only four batters of the game in that inning, and Fountain Valley scored twice.
The contest stayed tied until the top of the fourth. With one out, Fountain Valley's Justin Brand was hit by a pitch and stole second. An out later, he came home on Patzlaff's shot to right.
"Since league has started, [Patzlaff] has got to be hitting close to .550 now," Yanagisawa said. "His on-base percentage is about .650, .660, which is ridiculous at this point of the game. He's one of the reasons why we are where we are. He's picking up a lot of the offensive load. Him and Willy [Aguilar] have really picked up a lot of it, and you could say the same thing of [catcher Daniel] Rosica, hitting in the nine hole. We're getting some guys to swing the bat, but we still have a lot of work to do."
Patzlaff's homer helped the Barons stay a game up on Huntington Beach in league, though Vetrovec, who allowed just three hits and struck out eight, settled in. He retired the final 10 Barons batters he faced.
"When you come in here and you face Vetrovec, you're lucky to leave here with a 'W,'" said Yanagisawa, who is looking for his second league championship in two years in charge of his alma mater. "Today we were lucky to leave here with a 'W.' Schultz didn't have his best stuff, but the kid's got a lot of heart and a lot of guts. He's been like that all year. Today, it was a culmination of a tough week for him, because we've been using him to close on Wednesday and start on Friday. We've been asking a lot out of him, because this race is tight. There's a lot of good teams, and you can't sleep on anybody.
"You don't want to draw Newport Harbor in the first round [of CIF], that's for damn sure, with Vetrovec on the mound. It's a good win for us [today]. They are dangerous, even with Seabold [bound for Cal State Fullerton] on the mound, who is supposedly their No. 2 guy. I mean, he's a one guy on 90% of the Orange County teams. Newport Harbor's blessed with two No. 1 guys ... if their offense gets going, they're a really scary team."
Chalmers is still waiting for his offense to get going. The Sailors were retired in order just once on Friday, but struggled to find the key hit. They left runners on the corners in the bottom of the fourth. Luke Genova and Sean Korkmaz each had singles, but Schultz got out of the jam by inducing a fly ball to center.
The Sailors tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh against Barons closer J.T. Cobb. Jake Genova and Seabold each singled to center with no outs, but Cobb got two strikeouts and a pop out to end the game, nailing down his second save of the season.
Seabold and Mahaffy were both two for four for Newport, and Rigsby Duncan made a couple of nice catches in right field. But it just didn't add up to a win for the Tars, who have lost six of their last seven games.
"We had our chances to move runners," Chalmers said. "We didn't really seize our opportunities ... There's only been one contest that we haven't been in all year. We're at the point now where we expect to play with every team, now we've just got to get over that hump and be finishers. We can talk about it, we can practice it, but eventually we have to come together and conquer these teams. We're in a position now where we're running out of time."
Fountain Valley 4, Newport Harbor 2
SCORE BY INNINGS
FV 002 200 0 – 4 3 2
NH 200 000 0 – 2 7 0
Schultz, Cobb (7) and Rosica; Vetrovec and McWhertor. W – Schultz, 10-0. L – Vetrovec, 5-4. Sv – Cobb (2). 2B – Persinger (FV). HR – Patzlaff (FV).