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McArthur Rallies In Sixth To Defeat Chaminade

Alejandro Hernandez (4) reaching first after walking in the fifth. He drove in the go-ahead runs for McArthur in the sixth inning and finished the day 2 for 2.

McArthur (5-3) started off slow at the plate Wednesday night against the Chaminade-Madonna Lions (3-6), but center fielder Alejandro Hernandez capped off a three-run sixth inning for the Mustangs and helped secure a fourth-straight win for his ballclub.

Hernandez doubled in the two go-ahead runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, but he was seeing the ball well all night. He singled in the third and walked in the fifth, meaning he reached base in all three plate appearances on the night. When he came back up in the sixth, Hernandez was sitting curveball. He got a breaking ball and drove the ball right up the gap to deliver his team the first lead of the night.

“See the ball, hit the ball, that’s what I was thinking,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to go opposite field and I got it… I think it was a changeup, and I just stayed back and took it right up the middle… It feels amazing.”

There were several times that McArthur could have tied the game or taken the lead, but the timely hit didn’t come until the last minute. Never giving up and putting up a fight is something Mustangs manager Oddibe McDowell likes to see, but he’s still working on getting his team going a little bit earlier in the games so things aren’t so stressful at the end.

“We’re getting there, so I like to see that,” McDowell said. “I like to see the outcome that we got. The kids hung in there, battled and executed some of the basic, routine stuff and came out ahead. So, it’s a great win.”

Sophomore left-hander Brandon Brennan (33) gave up just one run in 4 1/3 innings for Chaminade-Madonna.

The two-RBI double from Hernandez might have been the dagger, but the Mustangs had been slowly chipping away at Chaminade’s pitching staff all night. A ton of credit should go to Lions sophomore lefty Brandon Brennan, who kept McArthur in check through 4 1/3 innings. Michael Gine ultimately took the loss after losing his command in the sixth and giving up three runs on four walks.

Zachary Malvasio gave up the hit to Hernandez after taking over with the bases loaded, but that’s a tough situation to get out of at this level. The silver lining for Gine is that he got out of the fifth after coming in for Brennan with a man on.

“A couple of things sped up on (Gine),” Lions manager Dan Scott said. “He started losing command, lost view of the strike zone. But, a team like that is going to put the ball in play all the time with bunts and stuff, and you’ve got to be able to control that.”

Pitching depth might have been the difference in this ball game. McArthur’s starter, Devin Grazzal, made it through the fifth and kept the game in range by surrendering just two runs.

Chaminade got to him early with an RBI single from Joseph Billisi in the first and again in the fifth thanks to an RBI double from Malvasio that was perhaps the hardest hit ball of the day. Grazzal recovered each time, though, and finished the night with eight strikeouts and just one walk.

Jesus Almarza moved from third base to pitcher in the sixth and catcher Tyler Smith closed things out in the seventh after his team took the lead. Smith was a vocal leader throughout the night and even took over a team meeting in the middle of the fifth. It was only right he finish off the win.

“Tyler has that temperament and he has that go-get-’em, he’s kind of the engine behind the car,” McDowell said. “It’s could to have it in that situation. Devin threw the ball good for a while, and you could see he was tiring out. Jesus came in and did a good job, and I think that’s one of our strongest parts, our pitching. So, it’s good to see those three guys do what they did just now.”

For Grazzal, winning was never out of the question, even if he did leave the game in line to pick up the loss. The Mustangs have played several close games this season and things always seem to click late in the game. All he had to do was keep things within reach, and eventually the offense would come through.

“Beating Chaminade is a huge morale boost because we’ve lost tough games,” Grazzal said. “This will help us get over the hump and be able to say that we can beat even better teams…

“Most of our games have started off 0-1 or 0-2 and then we come back in the last innings. That has to stop, but it’s a good feeling to get the job done.”

Devin Grazzal (5) pitched five innings for the McArthur Mustangs against the Chaminade-Madonna Lions.

Chaminade-Madonna moves to 3-6 on the year with the loss and Scott says the Lions are looking to shake the inconsistent play that’s led to a few wins getting away from them. The Lions went 3-0 in the Adidas Tournament at Florida Christian earlier in the month, so there’s evidence that the team is capable of striving together more than just a few good innings.

“Consistency,” Scott said. “We’ve got to be able to come out and play consistent baseball. Whether that’s defense or offense or our two-strike approach, we can do a lot of things right for a long time but we’ve got to be able to shut the faucet off when it gets going.”

Up next, Chaminade-Madonna hosts an 8-1 University team that’s ranked No. 9 in the county by HSBN. Then the Lions face a four-game stretch on the road against Westminster Academy (5-5), COHEA (2-8), Nova (7-2) and Calvary Christian (5-3) to close out the month.

For McArthur, starting the season 5-3 is far better than falling back to .500 in the win-loss column. Not to mention the Mustangs are now riding a four-game winning streak. The schedule appears favorable with two one-win teams coming up in the team’s next four matchups, and McDowell says the team is starting to feel good about itself.

“It’s a big win for us,” McDowell said. “Chaminade is a decent ball club, and the kids have to know that they’re a pretty damn good ball club too. Playing the competition helps. You try and a drive it into them and say ‘you have to believe that you,’ and then you go out and see that you are.

“This is one of those examples because they got it done even in the face of adversity. They picked each other up.”

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