John Klitsner, Mission College baseball coach, and his counterpart at Harbor, Tony Bloomfield, have a dinner riding on their series this season. If Mission wins any of the five games between the teams, Bloomfield owes Klitsner a meal.
Klitsner gets to choose the restaurant, and he could use a new place because lately he has been a regular at the Hard Luck Cafe.
Mission lost to Harbor, 4-1, Saturday in a Southern California Athletic Conference game at Valley College and continued its struggles in conference play and against the defending state champion.
Mission, which made its first trip to the state tournament last season, fell to 4-7 in conference play, 12-16 overall.
Regardless of who wins future games, Bloomfield probably owes Klitsner a dinner. After all, Harbor routinely has Mission for lunch. Klitsner is 0-12 against Harbor, and he believes Mission has never beaten Harbor, a perennial state power.
Despite the losses, Mission continues to give Harbor (19-6, 7-1), ranked third in the state and second in Southern California, all it can handle. Harbor eked out a 2-1 victory in the teams’ other meeting this season, and the score was tied, 1-1, entering the seventh inning Saturday.
“We’re not happy being close to them,” Klitsner said. “We believe we have a shot at beating them.”
Mission, which managed only two singles, mounted a threat in the first when runners reached first and second with one out. But on a hit-and-run, Eddie Chavez lined into a double play.
“He hits the ball on the button, and they had the right guy in the right spot,” Klitsner said. “Give them credit for having the right coverage.”
Starter Nino Romo held Harbor hitless for the first 4 2/3 innings. Ricardo Gutierrez doubled off the left-field fence for Harbor’s first hit and scored when the next batter, Mark Lewis, singled over the bag at first.
Mission countered in the sixth. With two out, Brad McGahan was hit by a pitch and Chavez followed with a single. McGahan scored when Lazaro Campos’ ground ball skipped past Harbor shortstop Lewis, but Chavez was left stranded on third.
It was the second consecutive inning in which Mission had left a runner at third, and it had few opportunities to squander against reliever Scott Taylor, who has the best earned-run average in the state at 0.47. Taylor (4-0) came in to record the final two outs of the fifth, pitched through the eighth and picked up the victory.
Pitching for the third consecutive day, Romo (2-5) tired in the seventh. He hit the first batter he faced in the inning and finished his stint by giving up back-to-back doubles. Harbor scored three runs before reliever Eric Duncan entered to get the final out of the inning.
Two of Romo’s losses have been to Harbor.
“Seems like every time we play them we see Romo. We’d like to see someone else,” Bloomfield said. “He knows how to pitch. We never show up expecting to get too many hits.”
Harbor mustered only six hits against Romo and Duncan, but “when it’s clutch time they’re getting the hits,” Klitsner said.
Klitsner, however, continues to believe that this team will be his meal ticket.
“It’s very frustrating. I believe we should have a chance any given day to beat anybody,” Klitsner said. “We’ll get them. We’ll get them once this year.”