Eagles suffer crushing blow in final

Walkoff home run spoils Del Oro’s bid for its first section title since 1991
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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SACRAMENTO – Cole Saunders crouched next to the mound, his head in his hands as Ponderosa High’s Casey Friederich rounded the bases. Friederich crushed a two-run, walk-off home run on an 0-2 fastball with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Bruins beat Del Oro 3-2 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II baseball championship Monday night at Sacramento City College. Ponderosa (24-8) won its first section baseball title in school history. The Golden Eagles (17-14), meanwhile, will have to wait at least another year for a shot at their first championship since 1991. “It hurts so bad,” senior shortstop Kenny Zuvela said. “You realize the game is over and that one pitch was our season right there.” Saunders (6-3) was masterful until a location mistake to Friederich. The Del Oro ace gave up eight hits, struck out nine and walked one. “He pitched as well as he could have pitched,” catcher Brian Rowe said. “That’s the hardest he’s thrown this year. I don’t know what else he could have done. “It was just one mistake, and that guy just really took advantage of it. It’s a heartbreaker because we worked so hard to get here and one swing can take it away.” Del Oro, which hit rock bottom after an April 4 loss to Rocklin dropped the team to 4-11 overall, was poised to celebrate a spectacular two-month comeback Monday night. The Eagles led 2-1 entering the final frame. Mike Cunningham hit a leadoff single before Saunders struck out Marc Fackrell after an 11-pitch at-bat. Saunders then fanned Aaron Conyers for the second out. Saunders threw Friederich two curveballs for strikes. Head coach Brett Lachemann signaled to Rowe for a fastball, Saunders’ best pitch. The senior threw it belt-high on the inside corner and Friederich turned on it, driving it a few feet over the left-field wall. “The dude just put a good swing on it,” Lachemann said. “We had been beating him inside all night and he just smoked it. “As soon as he hit it I was in shock. Everybody was.” Zuvela was so stunned, he didn’t even realize it was a walk-off blast. “Then I remembered there was a guy on,” he said. “When I realized it was the end of the game, I just dropped.” As some Ponderosa fans cheered in the stands above the first-base line and others flooded onto the field, Saunders and his head coach broke into tears and embraced in front of the Del Oro dugout. “We wouldn’t be here without the kid. We wouldn’t,” Lachemann said. “He’s been our big-game pitcher all year. It sucks to lose like that, but if it weren’t for him we wouldn’t have had the chance to be here. He’s a battler and I’m going to miss him.” Zuvela, one of the Eagles’ only starting seniors, hit a two-out RBI double off Ponderosa ace Matt Evanoff in the top of the third. Jake Bews, who had singled in front of Zuvela, was forced to hold at third on the double as the ball rolled under the fence. Bews then scored on a passed ball to give Del Oro its first lead, 2-1. “Everyone doubted us,” Zuvela said. “We came this far and that one pitch ending our season hurt a lot more than it would have otherwise. It’s hard to reflect on it right now after this loss, but we’re definitely proud of ourselves and what we accomplished this season.”