QUARTZ HILL — The Quartz Hill baseball team wasn’t focused on getting a big hit when the Rebels trailed for a third consecutive Golden League game on Friday.
The Rebels were focused on moving runners over. Focused on rallying from a one-run deficit against Highland. Quartz Hill was just focused.
Quartz Hill scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to rally for a 3-2 Golden League victory against Highland at Quartz Hill High School.
Quartz Hill (17-8, 8-2) moved back into sole possession of first place, after Highland (13-9, 9-3) briefly held that spot after beating the Rebels 2-1 on Wednesday.
“We talked about focus,” Quartz Hill coach Aaron Kavanagh said. “I felt like we were focused. It was a great two-game battle. We came out on top once and they came out on top once. We didn’t play poorly on Wednesday. Highland played well and made all the plays. We hit the ball hard. We talked about focus and I felt like we focused well and came out on top.”
Quartz Hill trailed 2-0 going into the bottom of the second inning, after a 6-4-3 double play ended its first inning.
Quartz Hill sophomore Mason Johnson led off the second inning with a walk and advanced to third on a single by junior Andrew Allanson.
One out later, with the bases loaded, Johnson tagged from third and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by senior Ryan Sanders.
“We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but overall we pulled through,” Sanders said. “We came clutch like we usually do. It felt really good. In the beginning, I felt that we weren’t really putting together great at-bats. They were decent at-bats, but we had a talk and said we needed to put good strong at-bats together and that really ended up paying off for us.
“Lately we’ve been hitting the ball really hard, but it hasn’t been falling. It’s been right at people. You just have to find a different way to get those runners on and move them over and put runs on.”
The Rebels took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fifth, on three hits and two errors.
Sanders led off the inning with a single, but was thrown out at second on a bunt by senior Noah Manzano.
The Bulldogs attempted to throw out Manzano trying to advance to third on a single by senior Jeovanny Delgado, but an error on the play allowed Manzano to score the tying run.
“The approach was just get people on base and move them over,” Delgado said. “That’s all we try to do. Luckily I got one into the gap when somebody was on first and moved him over and a bad throw brought him home.
“Once we get a little small ball, the big hits will come through.”
Delgado advanced to second on the play and tagged to third on a sacrifice fly by senior Nathan Hernandez.
Senior Isaac Moreno followed with an apparent inning-ending ground ball, but an error allowed him to reach base and Delgado to score the go-ahead run.
“It was good. I think a couple of the last past games have been rough, because we’ve been hitting line drives and they haven’t been falling, but today we had some fall and get on base and move them over,” Delgado said. “It was a good day. It’s just been line drives straight to their gloves. As long as we put them in the gap and get baserunners, we should be fine.”
Highland was shut out the final two innings by Quartz Hill sophomore reliever Ryan Reddemann, who struck out three and walked one.
Sanders struck out eight in five innings, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks.
“I ended up doing OK,” Sanders said of his pitching. “It’s not where I wanted it to be, but we really got the job done, so I’m really thankful for that.
“Yesterday we had a really focused practice and today coming into it we knew this is what we had to do. We knew we had to be 100 percent on our game and 100 percent focused. That’s what we came out and did. Maintaining the focus is really big key for us. Once you start losing focus, you kind of get off track. As soon as you get that focus back and get that drive, then it all starts to come together.”
Highland jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, when senior Jakob Perugini hit a one-out triple and scored on a two-out single by sophomore Jose de Jesus Vasquez.
The Bulldogs added a run in the second on a bases-loaded walk by senior Carson Booterbaugh, forcing in sophomore Joey Rocha, who had reached on a one-out bloop single. Senior Colin Hagen followed with a single and Perugini, who went 2-for-3, drew a two-out walk.
“The league is very balanced this year,” Kavanagh said. “It’s had some scores I wasn’t expecting. It’s really balanced and if you don’t show up ready to go, you’re going to get beat.”
Quartz Hill will play two games against Palmdale next week, with four games remaining in the regular season for the Rebels.
Highland, which played Knight during Spring Break, will play in the San Diego Lions Tournament next week before finishing league with two games against Littlerock, starting on April 22.
“The last four times, we’ve had really good games with them,” Highland coach Manuel Mobley said. “These last two, these are just really fun to be a part of, even though we lost today. We can’t pout and cry about the loss. You have to take the good with the bad. We’re going to have fun next week in San Diego and come back and finish up against Littlerock and hopefully finish up on a high note going into the playoffs.
“We saw two really good pitchers. We saw some quality today. We hung in there. We battled. A little miscue in there and they capitalized. That’s what the good teams do. Hopefully we can keep this going, these close games, for another couple of years. It’s a lot more fun than losing 14-4 or 18-2. We want these guys to know we’re proud of them. Proud of how we’ve come along and progressed this year. A bigger prize starts in about three weeks.”