SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY — Oakland Tech’s teams may be called the Bulldogs, but the Lowell Cardinals showed that they have a bulldog of their own in sophomore Jack Schonherr.
Relieving Cameron Tang with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the sixth, Schonherr struck out Stanford commit Adam Crampton to preserve a one-run lead as the Cardinals would go on to pick up an insurance run and win 4-2 to win Game 2 of the Transbay Series, evening up the best-of-three clash at a game apiece.
“He wants to win, and he wants to face the best,” Lowell head coach Daryl Semien said of Schonherr. “He came out on top today.”
Schonherr came on in relief of Tang, who put up a valiant effort to limit Oakland Tech (11-13) to two runs over 5 2/3 innings in his first start since suffering a back injury in April that limited him for nearly a month. Tang returned to the mound on Tuesday, ultimately allowing the winning run in relief in the ninth inning, and he was determined to avoid repeating those struggles to prolong his team’s season.
“I wanted to get back out there,” Tang said.
He had to wait a little longer than planned, as a bus breakdown delayed Oakland Tech’s arrival and the start of the game by an hour.
Though he didn’t even realize until his team started warming up that he would be the one starting, Tang allowed just three hits, and until the sixth inning, the only damage came on an unearned run in the third as back-to-back errors allowed Emilio Cohen to score. The second error put Michael Paltiel at second, but Tang would retire the next three batters, including Crampton, to get out of the inning down by just a run.
Just as they had put themselves in a hole with two errors, the Cardinals capitalized on miscues for a three-run rally to go on top. After Schonherr walked and Tang was hit by a pitch, Levi Humphrey bunted a ball that Oakland Tech pitcher Aidan Young first booted, then threw away, allowing everyone to take two bases and letting Schonherr score to tie the game. Funnily enough, Young’s appearance on the mound had led Semien to protest the game, as there was a dispute surrounding his pitch count from Tuesday and the mandatory rest periods that followed it, but the events that would unfold made the protest a moot point.
Tang would cross the plate on a Teo Koulias RBI groundout, and Jordy Bach’s single made it 3-1 as second baseman Brendan Berry-Owen made an excellent diving stop to prevent the ball from reaching the outfield, preventing a fourth run from scoring. Lowell (22-7) tried to extend the lead with a squeeze bunt, but Oakland Tech pitcher Miles Hickey, who came on after the errors had let the Cardinals tie the game, fielded it and got Mark Zhu in a rundown. Bach tried to take third during that sequence, and he was thrown out to end the frame.
The botched squeeze play wasn’t the only time Lowell left chances on the table, as the Cardinals had the bases loaded with an error and two walks in the second before Shane Stanley flew out to end the threat. Three straight walks loaded the bases for Philippe Astier in the fourth as Hickey ran out of gas, but Cohen came on to relieve him and got a popout to end the inning.
Cohen’s escape seemed to give the Bulldogs all the momentum, as they picked up their second and third hits of the day on singles by Dylan Hughes and Sammy Heinz. Tang foiled Isaac Lucas’ sacrifice bunt attempt, getting the lead runner at third, but after he struck out Cohen, he walked Paltiel to load the bases and issued another free pass to Alex George, cutting the lead to a run and bringing Crampton up.
That’s where Schonherr came on, and after two well-placed fastballs on the outside edge to get ahead in the count, he turned to his offspeed stuff. Crampton took the first of those for a ball, fouled off the second and laid off the third, but when Schonherr went back to it, the Stanford commit took the bait, and all that was left was for Stanley to corral the breaking ball and step on the plate to complete the out.
“Getting ahead is huge,” Schonherr said. “Then I can use my offspeed stuff, and I won’t be afraid to miss.”
That meant Tang finished with just two runs (one earned) on his ledger, and though he left the mound under duress, Tang impressed not only his teammates but also Oakland Tech manager Bryan Bassette.
“I liked Tang,” he said. “He’s under control, he hits spots, he doesn’t leave the ball over the middle of the plate and he makes our hitters work to get a good pitch.”
With Humphrey graduating, Tang and Schonherr will likely lead the Cardinals rotation into 2020, and the two are also key in the lineup. Tang singled up the middle to start the bottom of the sixth, though Crampton nearly retired him with a heroic effort, ranging far to his left after the ball deflected off the mound. His extensive range came back to bite him this time, as his throw was a bit high, kicking off the glove of first baseman Blaine French and into the Lowell dugout, allowing Tang to take second. He would score on Humphrey’s RBI single, a huge insurance run that will likely allow Humphrey to take the mound one last time when the teams conclude the series.
“I had been struggling all day and was looking to simplify my swing,” Humphrey said.
Initially scheduled to play first base on the day, soreness forced Semien to adjust his lineup and put Humphrey in the DH slot, and with extra time to sit in the dugout, his early at-bats had weighed heavily on him.
“I was a little bit bummed but realized I had a chance to help my team and forget everything else,” he said.
That insurance run meant there was minimal pressure on Schonherr in the seventh, who closed the game out despite a leadoff walk to Cameron Bonzell.
The decisive game of the series is scheduled for Tuesday at 4 p.m., but Oakland Tech has asked to change the date of the game to accommodate final exams.