Tuesday’s game felt like a true home opener, as the fans filled the familiar bleachers at the Ventura College field for the first time this season as the Dragons prepared to face their league opponents, the Saints of Santa Clara High School. Although it was a game with plenty of missed opportunities and miscues, Foothill found a way to top the Saints in extra innings, and it took over three hours for the Dragons to claim their 5-4 victory.
The varsity boys’ baseball team has played a good number of home games this season, but none have been at their true home field. Due to field complications, use of the Ventura College baseball field was restricted for approximately two months, forcing Foothill to play at Huntsinger Park.
In the top of the first inning, Dale Starr ‘17 worked around a two-out walk to keep the Saints from scoring. The Dragons had the first of many scoring opportunities in the bottom half of the inning when Dylan Tamburri ‘17 singled, stole second base, and went to third base on a wild pitch with no outs. However, the Saints’ starting pitcher recovered and retired the following three batters.
Santa Clara opened the second inning with a leadoff single, and the Saints’ runner stole second with one out. However they were unable to capitalize, as Starr set down the final two batters. Foothill responded with a leadoff base hit of their own from Dillon Gallagher ‘19. Gallagher advanced to third with no outs and eventually scored on a throwing error by the Saints’ pitcher. Tyler Hong ‘20 benefitted from Santa Clara’s miscues as well, as he knocked a base hit into left field and scored on an error from the shortstop, extending Foothill’s lead to 2-0.
After Starr struck out the first batter in the top of the third inning, the Saints started to demonstrate their discipline at the plate. They stayed patient and recorded a leadoff single, followed by three straight walks from Starr, who was having difficulties finding the strike zone. The third walk forced in a run, cutting the Dragons’ lead in half. The rest of the inning was plagued by errors: two costly mistakes caused three more runs to score, and the Saints jumped out to a 4-2 lead.
Following two quick outs in the Dragon’s half of the inning, Ryan Tamburri drew a walk and stole a base to put himself in scoring position. With Gallagher at the plate, the Saints’ catcher dropped a third strike, which rolled to the backstop and allowed Ryan Tamburri to score Foothill’s third run of the game.
Ryan Tamburri came out of the bullpen to relieve the struggling Starr, and he struck out two batters in the top of the fourth en route to a clean inning. In an attempt to tie the score, Foothill’s Hong lined a base hit into center field in the bottom half of the inning and advanced to third base on two passed balls. Trey Casswell ‘18 then delivered a timely bloop single to score Hong while tying the game at 4 apiece.
In the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings, both pitchers refused to give up the go-ahead run. Ryan Tamburri and the Saints’ relief pitcher battled through three scoreless frames to send the game into extra innings.
Ryan Tamburri came up clutch once more for the Dragons in extras, tossing a clean eighth inning and keeping Santa Clara from scoring. Foothill’s biggest opportunity came in their half of the eighth inning; they had a chance to win the game with the bases loaded and no outs. However, it was squandered; a crucial double play was turned by the Saints which dashed the Dragons’ rally.
In the ninth inning, Santa Clara came up empty once more against Ryan Tamburri, who set them down in order. The Dragons didn’t have an ideal start to their half of the ninth, as the leadoff batter flied out to right field. However, Ryan Tamburri drew a walk and stole second, setting the stage for Gallagher. Gallagher got the chance to be the hero and he delivered, sending a game-winning base hit into left field. The Dragons rushed onto the field and celebrated the walkoff win, with the right field scoreboard displaying their victory: Foothill Tech 5, Santa Clara 4.
An enthusiastic Gallagher said that driving in the game-winning run “felt amazing,” as well as alleviating his offensive struggles with three hits.
Casswell expressed why he was so encouraged by the extra-inning win, explaining that the two teams know each other fairly well.
“Santa Clara has been a little bit of a rival since the start of the program,” Casswell said. “We have a bit of a history with this team, so coming out here today with a win was definitely an amazing thing.”
Head coach Clint Ellison appreciated his team’s approach after Santa Clara’s four-run explosion in the third inning, which was a conservative mindset instead of “trying to win it with one swing.”
“We just kept fighting and scored one at a time [and] put base hits together,” he said. “The good thing is we kept fighting and came out on top in the end.”
As far as the hitting with runners in scoring position, Gallagher showed disappointment but managed to look on the positive side.
“It was a bummer we couldn’t come through” he said. “But [the win] is all we want, that’s what we came in here wanting, and we got it.”
With the victory, the Dragons improve their regular season record to 11-7 overall and 4-1 in league play, while the Saints drop to 3-11-1. However, the Saints have a chance to redeem themselves this Friday in a rematch against the Dragons at Santa Clara High School.
Casswell remains optimistic and eager about the upcoming game, which he is “looking forward to.”
“I believe from today’s game, we are going to come out there real strong [on Friday],” he said. “We are definitely looking for another win.”