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Pines Charter Comeback Falls Short As Belen Prevails

Pines Charter 2nd baseman Riley Bambino fires to first to compete a second inning 6-4-3 double play.

Fresh off the momentum of a no-hit effort against SLAM last week and then a big upset of HSBN Miami #1 Miami Springs on Monday, Belen Jesuit kept things rolling right along on Wednesday night.

That after Wolverines traveled north to Broward County and, on the strength of a big five-run third inning, held on to knock off Pembroke Pines Charter 6-4 at Flamingo Park.

The win was the fourth straight for Belen and the Wolverines have now won eight of their last 10 games to improve to 12-6 as they prepare to host their big eight-team South Florida Catholic Classic next week.

“Another good effort and obviously a very good week for us on the heels of the win over Miami Springs,” said Belen manager Jerry Albert. “We knew tonight would be tough. Even after we got up 5-0, everytime we play Charter, we know they battle us and that they don’t quit. And they didn’t. They have tremendous bats and came all the way back on us and took it right down to the last out. The last out is always the toughest but Kevin did a great job out there and came in and managed to close things down.”

Albert referred to his closer, Kevin Castro who came in for starter Frank Fernandez in the sixth and recorded the final six outs to get the save.

But, as Albert alluded to, that last out is never easy. After Castro retired the side in order in the sixth and got the first two batters in the seventh, he walked Charter’s Alejandro Puig before Riley Bambino lined a base hit to left. When the Belen catcher fired down to first to try and pick Bambino off, the ball went down the right field line and both runners advanced.

Pines Charter starting pitcher Bryan Barcenas.

Suddenly the tying run was in scoring position with Charter’s best hitter, Bryan Barcenas headed to the plate. But Castro buckled in and threw an inside pitch that jammed Barcenas who hit a little dribbler down to first base that first baseman Ernie Echeverria easily handled and stepped on first to end the game.

“I just stayed focused, gave him a two-seamer and kind of jammed him and got a little dribbler in the opposite direction,” said Castro of his final pitch of the night. “My mindset all along was just to try and throw first-pitch strikes, let them put it in play and see what my teammates can do and they got it done including a big-time play by Nick in center. It feels good to keep this winning thing going.”

Castro referred to his center fielder, Nick Alonso in what might’ve been the best defensive play of the night. After retiring the first batter in the seventh, Castro faced pinch hitter Carlos Mendez who connected with a towering drive to dead center field that had double or triple written all over it. But Alonso reached up high just as he approached the fence to make a spectacular grab.

At the time, it didn’t seem like as big a deal as it was only the second out of the inning. But throw in Castro’s ensuing walk to Puig and Bambino’s base hit and the inning could’ve taken on an entirely different flavor for the Jaguars without Alonso’s big catch.

“When I saw it come off the bat, I knew it was well hit so I just had to turn and run back quickly,” said Alonso. “Then I had to turn back and relocate the ball and I managed extend my arm and track it down.”

After Mike Cruz led off the Belen third inning with a base hit, a key moment early in the game took place when Carlos Mas hit a hard shot to shortstop that had 6-4-3 double play written all over it. But the hard hit ball got past the shortstop and went all the way to the fence in left center. Instead of nobody on and two outs, the Wolverines had second and third with no outs and their big inning was set up.

After a short pop out for the first out, Cruz came home on a wild pitch before leadoff hitter Matt Huembes stepped up and lined a base hit to left scoring Mas. Brandon DeGoti then rocketed a shot to the fence in left center for a double and both he and Huembes scored when Alonso lined a two-RBI double to right center. Alonso advance to third on a ground out and then scored on a balk to complete the rally.

But Charter didn’t back down from the 5-0 deficit as the Jaguars immediately answered back with two runs in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Puig and an RBI sacrifice fly to left by Barcenas.

Fernandez was coming off a brilliant performance last week when he fired a no-hitter at SLAM but he labored on this night. After giving up the two runs in the third, he managed to work his way out of two jams in the fourth and fifth. But when Barcenas led off the sixth with a double to left and Pablo Bravo stepped up and hit a towering two-run bomb over the fence in left center to make it 6-4, his night was over as Albert called for Castro and try and preserve the lead.

“Obviously that error in the third was a big one but we tell our players, if you make a mistake, you need to pick each other up and go to the next play,” said Pines Charter manager Carlos Iglesias. “Mistakes are going to happen, it’s what you do after the mistake and what we did after the mistake, down by five, was start to come back. We had the tying run on base, the winning run at the plate and one of our best hitters up. We just came up a little short but I’m proud of the way we battled back.”

Pines Charter’s Pablo Bravo is greeted at the plate by his teammates following his big 2-run homer in the sixth inning.

The loss dropped the Jaguars to 6-8 on the season but Iglesias said he’s trying not to get overly focused on the team’s record as opposed to making sure they are playing their best baseball when the district playoffs arrive in a few weeks.

“Our record isn’t great but the goal here is to prepare your team for the district tournament,” said Iglesias. “Sure you would like to have a better overall record, but the bottom line is you want to be playing your best baseball in the district tournament to try and make a run because that’s when it really counts.”

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