Home Cooking Not to Damien’s Liking; lose 8-3 to Cowboys

May 13, 2009
Share this story:
Damien pitcher James Guillen, the Spartans' relief ace all season, fires a pitch against the Chino Cowboys.

Damien pitcher James Guillen, the Spartans' relief ace all season, fires a pitch against the Chino Cowboys.

With the Chino Cowboys at 18-6 and the Damien Spartans at 18-7, the table was set: A victory by the Spartans would give them a share of the Sierra League title. The trouble was, only the Cowboys responded when the dinner bell rang. By the time the Spartans, showed up, the game was out of their hands as they dropped the penultimate league contest, 8-3, at Damien High School.

The Cowboys feasted on Damien’s home cooking by scoring four runs in the first, three in the second and one in the third before Damien pitchers restored order and shut the Cowboys out over the last four frames.

“We got in a hole early, and we never could recover,” said Damien coach Albert Leyva. “But our guys never gave up. We scored three more runs. After the second or third, they didn’t score any more. We did, and battled to the end. We may not win every game, but we’ll battle.”

Going into the game, the menu looked appetizing enough. Damien handed the ball to James Guillen, the Spartans’ stingiest pitcher (1.19 ERA over 17.2 innings). However, after coming in from the bullpen all season, Guillen was asked to make his first start of the year.

“James has been doing a good job for us,” Leyva said. “He had earned the start. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us. Our second starter just really hasn’t been nails for us.”

To start the game, Chino’s Dillon Ogle was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Perez. Then, with two outs, the Cowboys strung together a pair of doubles, a single and a walk to score three more, the big blow coming on a line drive, 2-run double by first baseman Jacob Anderson.

In the second inning, Damien would have escaped a two-out, bases-loaded situation were it not for a bad-hop, two-run single by Chino’s Jerry Gonzalez that kangarooed over the head of Damien first baseman Ray Ortega. Pitcher Taylor Jimenez, who was given a free pass earlier in the inning scored the inning’s third run on a wild pitch.

The seven-run cushion was more than enough for Jimenez to get Chino’s 19th victory of the season.

The Spartans pushed across one run in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings while pitchers Antonio Gonzales and Nick Amrhein shut down the Cowboy offense the last four innings, but again it was too little, too late. Damien collected six hits in the game.

Regardless of the loss or the outcome of Damien’s rematch against the Cowboys on Thursday, the Spartans at 18-8 are headed for the playoffs, a solid achievement given Damien was without a head coach until Leyva was named two weeks before the start of the 2009 season.

“It’s not me; it’s the players,” said Leyva. “They are the ones who have to hit and swing the bat and play defense and pitch. I’m just here to support them and put them on the right track, and they did a good job of buying in. That’s half the battle right there. If they’re willing to be coached, they’re going to get some good knowledge from our coaching staff.”

The staff’s one of the area’s best. In addition to Leyva, Damien boasts ex-Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Kevin Gross and Skip Claprood, whose 772 wins as head coach of the Citrus Owls is a record for Southern California Community College coaches.

“They’re going to be well coached,” Leyva said, “and the kids are buying in.”

Leave a Reply