YUBA CITY — Oh, but for that sixth inning …
For the first five frames of a 6-2 loss at Yuba City, Davis High ace Ben Eckels was riding high. The lefty starter did not allow a hit in his stint, as the Blue Devils opened a 2-0 lead.
But this is only the fourth baseball game of the season. When you’re a junior in high school, arm health is a major concern to a coach. DHS skipper Dan Ariola had his young hurler Eckels on a leash.
“Sixty, seventy pitches. That was always going to be it for him,” Ariola explained after relieving his ace in the middle of a dandy performance.
When the normally reliable bullpen came on in the sixth, the Honkers tapped Devils George Hatamiya and Alec Miramontes for six runs and grabbed a victory before a crowd of about 300 at Community Stadium.
It was the first loss for Davis (3-1) and gave the Yuba City a 2-1 mark under first-year coach Vicente Luevano.
“He pitched very well,” Ariola said of Eckels, who fanned six while walking a lone, fourth-inning batter. “If this was three or four starts down the road, Eckels goes the whole way.
“But right now, I have to be careful. That’s my Suicide Saturday (playoffs) starter.”
Eckels and Yuba’s Zach Oakley went toe-to-toe for four innings before the Blue Devils broke through in the fifth.
Reid Hulsizer singled with one out, Hayden Duer singled and a Miramontes groundout put runners at second and third with two down and leadoff hitter Josh Cosio at the plate.
The senior center fielder bounced a ball to third, but when the throw was up the line, the Honker first baseman couldn’t collect it. Cosio reached on the error with Hulsizer and Duer scoring.
After a 1-2-3 fifth inning for Eckels, Ariola made his move, bringing in Hatamiya. With two outs in the fateful sixth, Seth Davis singled for the Honkers and designated hitter Blake Parks tied it up with a two-run dinger.
Things didn’t calm down for Hatamiya or Miramontes as Yuba City then used a hit batsman, three walks and a double to put some distance on the scoreboard.
Oakley went five innings to get a no-decision, allowing all four Davis hits. Cody Kent picked up the win in relief.
Notes: The Blue Devils will travel to Napa on Tuesday and play section runner-up Jesuit at Raley Field on Friday. Ariola said he didn’t know who would start against the Indians, but has penciled in Eckels for the Raley Field assignment. … Luevano takes over for Honker coaching legend Jim Stassi, whose middle son Max plays in the Oakland A’s organization. Older brother Brock plays with DHS grad Mike Turay at Nevada and the youngest, Jake Stassi is at Long Beach State. The Stassi family fashioned four consecutive CIF D-III crowns, including last season.