With a District playoff berth on the line, the Sunnyside High School baseball team needed to sweep Eastmont this past Friday in the regular season finale to have a chance to tie streaking Hanford for the CBL's final playoff berth.
The Grizzlies fell a game short, losing 4-0 in the first contest but rebounding for a 4-2 win in the nightcap.
The visiting Wildcats threatened in virtually every inning in the opener, but Sunnyside starting pitcher Gibby Briones kept the door shut, quashing one-out rallies in the second and third innings with help from Grizzly defenders.
With Sunnyside batters struggling, mustering just two hits for the contest, Eastmont scored what proved to be the winning runs in the top of the fifth inning when a dropped infield fly with two outs allowed two Wildcat runners to score.
Eastmont then sealed the win with a two-run home run in the top of the sixth.
"We got ourselves out of jams each inning but it finally caught up with us," said Sunnyside Coach Terry Shines.
Behind the pitching of Frank Salcedo, Sunnyside rallied from a 2-0 deficit in game two to earn a split of the season-ending doubleheader.
"We hit the ball a lot harder," Shines said of game two, in which Sunnyside collected seven hits, two by Diego Burgueno.
After Eastmont opened scoring with two in the top of the second, the Grizzlies responded with a solo run in the bottom of the stanza when Briones tripled and scored on a Hector Mendez single.
Salcedo kept the door shut from there, as Sunnyside tallied two more runs in the third inning to take the lead for good. Sunnyside scored what proved to be the game winner in the third, when Briones got caught in a rundown and stalled the Eastmont defense long enough for a Grizzly run to score.
Sunnyside scored an insurance run in the top of the fifth when Buddha Palomarez came home on a bases loaded walk.
Eastmont had a little life left, though, getting a runner on base in the top of the seventh. Sunnyside was able to shut down the threat and hang on to the win.
Though Sunnyside (3-9, 5-15) ends its season just missing the playoffs, Shines said there was progress since the Grizzlies were winless last year.
"I'm happy with the season, but I wish we could have gotten into the playoffs."
Sunnyside's strengths this year, he said, were the pitching twosome of Briones and Salcedo, along with solid play in the outfield, especially by center fielder Nate Cornelius. "I'm pushing for him to be an all-conference center fielder," the coach said of possible postseason honors.
Shines said the Grizzlies need some work with infield defense and more timely hitting, noting "we got better toward the end of the season."
Sunnyside loses seven seniors off this team: Tim Taylor, Diego Burgueno, Cameron Boboth, Briones, Salcedo, Brenen Swofford and Cornelius.
That means the Grizzlies will have to rebuild next year if they hope to break through to the postseason. Potential pitching candidates, Shines said, will include Tristan Abbott, Justin Reyes, Hector Mendez and Buddha Palomarez.
Looking ahead, Shines said he wants to see the Grizzlies continue their baseball progress through the summer.
"There wasn't a summer program for them last year, so I'm looking forward to getting that going and keeping the kids playing."