By SHEL SEGAL
ALHAMBRA – Starter Daniel De La Pena gave up four runs in the sixth inning – three of them coming on a tie-breaking home run blast by catcher Nikolai Velis – and the Mark Keppel baseball team lost to visiting San Gabriel 4-1 on Monday in an Almont League game.
Velis knocked in first baseman Cesar Guzman, who had walked, and designated hitter Tony Huerta, who singled with one out in the inning for San Gabriel (8-8, 5-6 AL).
Huerta’s single scored shortstop Jason Padilla to tie the game at 1-all. Padilla reached first to lead off the inning when Keppel first baseman Frankie Guzman couldn’t handle the throw from shortstop Bryce Nakamura.
De La Pena pitched well for Keppel (10-13, 5-6), going the distance and gave up those four runs on six hits while striking out nine and walking just one.
Keppel scored its lone run in the bottom of the fourth inning when center fielder Andrew Fernandez singled in third baseman Josh Soto, who had walked and stole second to start the inning.
San Gabriel coach Ralph Olguin said while his players haven’t been doing well with the bat lately, the Matadors came through went it counted.
“We haven’t been hitting well, been struggling a little, but I told them to stay being consistent, stay aggressive and we got the bat on the ball,” he said.
He added when the Matadors score some runs they actually have a good chance to get the win.
“We got keep scoring,” Macedo said. “Our goal all season has been to score four or five runs. With the pitching we have if we score four to five runs we can beat anyone in our league. It’s been a struggle getting those four or five runs, but if we can stay at that mark we’ll be alright.”
Macedo also said he liked how Velis came through for San Gabriel with the big homer.
“He’s been struggling,” Macedo said of Velis. “He’s one of our top three players, a four-year varsity guy. They’ve been pitching around him, making him chase bad pitches. I told him to stay with himself and he finally got one.”
Keppel coach Andrew Macedo said between the lack of timely hitting and just plain making mistakes, the Aztecs are their own worst enemy.
“We’re always leaving people left on base,” he said. “We’re not executing when we have people on. There are missed signs. We missed like four or five signs. And then it’s always one inning that kills us. (The sixth inning) we gave six outs in one inning.”
He added with two more games against San Gabriel this week and two against Schurr next week, he’s not sure at this point how to instill winning into his guys.
“They’re not quitting, but there’s no positive,” Macedo said. “We just hope things will get better.”
Rolondo Correa went the distance for San Gabriel to get the win. He gave up just one run on five hits, struck out five and walked two.