By SHEL SEGAL
ALHAMBRA – The Keppel baseball team saw its playoff hopes derailed just a bit as it got walloped 14-0 in five innings on Friday by visiting Montebello in an Almont League game. The magic number for Keppel (10-12, 5-5 AL) remains four for the fourth and final playoff spot from the league with five games to play – three against San Gabriel and two against Schurr.
Keppel starter Troy Maki got hit hard in his 1 2/3 innings of work. Maki gave up seven runs on four hits, walked two, hit two batters and didn’t get much help from his defense, which made two errors behind him – and another behind reliever Matt Baptista – in an eight-run second inning.
Keppel was stymied at the plate by Montebello pitcher Martin Esparza, who finished the game with nine strikeouts.
Montebello coach Manny Arana said the win was an all-around victory for the Oilers (13-9, 8-3).
“The pitcher threw strikes and we hit it, Sometimes when you hit the ball good things happened. (Keppel) kind of helped us a little bit, but when you do the right things, things happen.”
Keppel coach Andrew Macedo said not knocking in runners on second and third with nobody out in the bottom of the first just took the wind out of the Aztecs’ sails.
“If we score that first inning, it would be a different ball game,” he said.
“People on base, our four and five batters, two strikes looking when they’re just supposed to be hacking, if that outcome changes it’s a way different ball game.”
Macedo added not scoring those runs is one of those things that just gets under a player’s skin and causes situations that just get out of hand.
“These kids, it’s all about a different mindset,” he said. “It changes everything. It changes our body language. It changes our thinking. It changes the momentum. It changes everything.”
And how does Keppel’s playoff situation look after this one-sided loss?
“Other teams are going to have more momentum, more confidence in playing us,” Macedo said. “Our magic number is still four and we got five games left. We got to win five out of five.”