WEST SUNSET — Galileo pinch hitter Gino Moragon tripped his bat tightly as he uncertainly climbed into the batter’s box in the top of the sixth inning at West Sunset, with 35-mph winds whipping through the trees beyond the concrete right field wall. He hadn’t had a plate appearance all year.
The Lions hadn’t even been into the sixth inning this season. Their most recent loss? Tuesday, 26-3. So, Moragon’s teammates barked at him to show bunt early. On the first pitch, he forgot, and meekly offered a half-bunt, half-sing. He didn’t step out of the box the entire at-bat, and struck out swinging.
The next batter — pinch hitter Jesse Villaflores — hadn’t played baseball in middle school, effectively going from no baseball at all to Academic Athletic Association varsity. In his second plate appearance of the season, he walked. The Galileo bench roared. Even in the midst of what would be a 13-2 loss to Lincoln — the same team that shellacked them the day before — the Lions reveled in the smallest of victories.
“That’sthe power of these SF schools, is that they offer opportunities that people may not have,” said Galileo assistant coach Matt Allen. “The whole bench got excited when he worked a walk. Second at-bat of the year, first time on-base. A Lowell guy rips a double, they’re jacked. Our guy gets on base, we’re jacked. The accomplishment’s totally differnet, but the sentiment is the same.”
Lincoln (11-6, 6-2 in AAA) and Galileo (0-8, 0-8) are two teams headed in opposite directions. The Mustangs kept pace with the league’s frontrunning Lowell, staying 2 1/2 games back in second place as the Cardinals eked out a come-from-behind 10-9 winover Balboa. Lincoln was a middling 9-7 in league last season, were 9-6 the season before, and 2-10 the season before that. The Lions have yet to win a league game in eight tries this season, and have a cumulative league record of 4-26 over the previous two seasons. The last time they had a winning league record was a 9-6 effort in 2016.
“I have a friend in Hong Kong, he runs a sports facility, mostly basketball focused,” said Allen, a son of the City, and a former baseball and basketball player at Lowell. “I talk to my friend, who’s a professional coach, and we’re all competitive, and when when he hears the scores, he’s like, ‘Oh, my God, bro.’ … That’s not the full story.”
As a Lowell baseball player, Allen went 120-20. His Galileo teams have gone 4-43-1 over his two seasons and change, during which he’s served under three different head coaches.
“I had so much joy playing the game, every year, so I’m happy to show them how to lose, but also, how to make progress every day,” Allen said. “That’s the point. It’s defining what success is for your team, and finding out what that means.”
Even the Mustangs had to marvel at Galileo’s pluckiness, though it came thanks to some miscues by the Lincoln reserves.
A walk and two errors by the Lincoln subs in the top of the fifth allowed the Lions to cut the deficit to 10-2, staving off a mercy rule defeat (the game is called if the home team is ahead by 10 runs after the top of the fifth inning). Before stepping up to the plate in the bottom of the sixth, leadoff man Jojo Serrano noted to one of the Mustangs’ coaches that even he knew this was uncharted territory for Galileo.
“Some of their football players played with me when I grew up, and they were all excited, saying, ‘It’s our first game playing in the sixth,’” Serrano said. “That got me a little mad, because we should’ve killed them.”
But, Serrano, said there was some happiness for his opponents, too.
“It’s baseball, you’ve got to be nice to all people,” he said. “It’s a small city. We all know each other, so we all grew up together, played middle school together.”
The Lions’ senior starter had to endure a punishing four innings, giving up 10 runs as the whipping winds played tricks with every fly ball and even with throws back to the pitchers.
In the bottom of the second, Lincoln center fielder Anthony Sierra banged a curveball back up the middle for a one-out single. After Galileo’s starting catcher took a foul ball off the wrist during Serrano’s ensuing walk, his backup had his fair share of trouble, and let the hefty Serrano — an offensive lineman on Lincoln’s football team — steal second without a throw.
“Football helped me out on that one,” Serrano said.
The wind blew a fly ball from second baseman Julian Villasenor by the Galileo right fielder for a run-scoring double, and a groundout to shortstop by Jonathan Wan brought Serrano in to score. A throwing error on a would-be inning-ending grounder to second by Lincoln shortstop Chris Franco brought Villasenor home to make the score 3-0.
A pair of walks loaded the bases for third baseman Colson Ryan, who banged a full-count offering to right center field, clearing the bases with his second triple of the year to give the Mustangs a 6-0 lead. Colson now leads the Mustangs with 25 RBIs on the season.
After a pair of one-out singles in the bottom of the third, Lincoln loaded the bases on another wind-aided fly ball to right, Franco popped out into a heads-up 4-1 double play to end the frame.
Jonas Francovich — who would eventually come on in relief of a four-inning, five-strikeout performance from football star AJ Adewusi — led off the fourth with a titanic blast to center. The ball — which would have been a home run were there normal boundary fences — went for a triple. Adewusi brought him home with a ball that scooted under the Galileo shortstop’s glove to put Lincoln ahead 7-0. A chopper to third by catcher Jeffrey Franco brought another run home and put men at the corners, a wild pitch brought in Adewusi and a groundout to first by Sierra scored Lincoln’s 10th run.
Needing just three outs to earn their second mercy-rule win in as many days, Lincoln put in its reserves, including moving Francovich from left field to the mound, and inserting Jose Cruz at third. With one out, Cruz charged a chopper to third, and saw it squirt undre his mitt. Another error on a grounder to the left side put two men into scoring position. With two outs and the bases loaded, a 1-2 wild pitch and a misplayed throw to third brought a pair of runs in to score.
After not being able to score the game-finishing runs in the bottom of the frame, Lincoln came up with them in the sixth, with Serrano working a leadoff walk, and advancing to second on a liner through the right side by Chris Franco. Francovich then ripped a curve to right center, where the wind once again did its dirty work, pushing the ball away from both Moragon and Villaflores for a two-run double, sealing the win.
“I’m glad they got a little fun in,” said Serrano, who scored the 12th run to seal the win.