Vulcans Walk-it-off in Win over Salem

Vulcans had a slow start, but built up a victory against Salem


Nathan Kurtz

California Vulcans 2023 Baseball Team

Andrew White, Staff Writer

The California baseball team took on Salem on Tuesday, at Wild Things Stadium in Washington. The Vulcans have had their success against Salem in the past, leading the overall head-to-head matchup 24-2, including 13 straight wins from 2014-2022. The starting pitchers for the game were Freshmen Sam Georgiana for the Vulcans and Frankie Gulko for Salem.

The game was very defensive for the first half, as both teams were held scoreless through the first four innings. Starting pitcher Georgiana lasted four innings and only allowed one hit, striking out two batters and walking three. His pitch count through four shutout innings was 53. In the fifth inning, Salem jumped ahead and took the lead on a sacrifice fly by Aaron Forbes, a Freshman from Morgantown, West Virginia. The fifth inning continued with a bunt single by Kaiden Zacha which scored another run, followed by Zacha attempting to steal second, which resulted in an error by the second baseman Santino Marra, which allowed another run to score from third. Going into the bottom of the fifth inning, the score was now 3-0 Salem. 

The Vulcans were quick to answer however, as left fielder Ryan Callahan connected with one for a solo home run to lead off the bottom half of the fifth, cutting Salem’s lead down to two runs. It was Callahan’s fourth home run of the year and helped boost his batting average up to .270 on the season. 

In the eighth inning, second baseman Santino Marra hit a single that moved a runner from second to third. Now, with runners on the corners and two outs, this would be one of California’s last chances to get back into this game. Once Marra reached base, the following batter, Brett Bobin, walked after working it to a full count, loading the bases with two outs. The next batter, Senior David Lee, worked a full count as well and continued to draw a bases loaded walk which drove in the Vulcans second run of the game, making the score 3-2 in favor of Salem. Callahan went on to ground out in the next at-bat to end the inning, stranding three batters on base.

The momentum stayed on the Vulcans side, as they were able to sit down the batters in order for a 1-2-3 inning to get off the field and back on the offensive. Relief pitcher Aiden Ruiz had a dominant performance on the mound as he faced seven batters and sat down seven batters. He didn’t allow a single base runner in 2.1 innings and struck out four of the seven batters he faced, keeping California’s hopes alive going into the bottom of the ninth.

In the bottom half of the ninth inning, Freshman relief pitcher Evan Bell was on the mound for Salem in hopes to put the Vulcans away. The inning started with the first batter of the inning, Jayden Taitano, getting walked, and the second batter of the inning, Conor Carney, laying down a perfect sacrifice bunt that moved Taitano to second base.  With one out and a man on second, third baseman Nathan Meeks drew the second walk of the inning after working the pitcher into a full count. Now with runners on first and second with one out, Bell was replaced by right hander Zack Kendall, a Freshman relief pitcher out of Orlando, Florida. However, the first batter he faced, Kendall walked on four pitches, loading the bases with only one out. The pressure of the moment got to the Freshman pitcher, as the next batter after the 4-pitch walk was hit by a pitch, which drove in the tying run and left the bases loaded. The game was now all tied up at three a piece.  

Marra stepped up to the plate for the Vulcans, looking to walk it off and send California fans home happy. Salem was set up defensively to prevent the game-winning run from scoring, having all infielders playing up closer to home plate, in efforts to throw a runner out at home and keep the game going, considering there was only one out. Marra hit a hard ground ball to the shortstop who made the choice of going home with the play, forcing the second out of the inning but leaving the bases loaded. Next up was Bobin, who had drawn a critical walk in the eighth inning which set up their second run of the game. Bobin was able to work the pitcher to another full count, fouling off two pitches in the process. With a 3-2 count and the bases loaded, Bobin took a pitch that was outside the zone and drew his second walk of the game, which drove in the run from third, giving the Vulcans the lead in the bottom of the ninth inning. The walk-off walk, one of the rarest instances in all of baseball. The Vulcans won the game 4-3, proving that having a good eye goes a long way when it comes to winning close games. 

The Vulcans improve their record to 20-18 overall and stay at 8-12 in conference play, considering Salem isn’t in their conference. Salem drops to 20-24 on the season.