The current state of Mission Bay's baseball season was summed up on one play Thursday. Buccaneer shortstop J.J. Ibarra was taking a feed from second baseman Joe Enomoto while trying to complete a double play when he saw USDHS' Mike Hall barreling into him with a hard slide.
"He took me out; he came up on my knee," said Ibarra about Hall. "I thought he blew my knee. I was scared. I didn't want to be another Ozzie Guillen . . ."
But Ibarra, whose style resembles that of the injured Chicago White Sox shortstop, stayed with the play and cut short a possible big second inning for the No. 4 Dons.
Ibarra, who was not hurt, and No. 8 Mission Bay stayed alive in the City Western League race with three double plays and a 5-2 victory.
USDHS, the defending league champion, dropped to 18-4, 7-1. A win would have clinched another Western League title for the Dons--and they tried to deliver a knockout blow by putting undefeated left-hander Kevin McDonald on the mound.
But Mission Bay has a way of hanging around. And the Buccaneers (18-7, 5-3), who finished second to USDHS but reached the section 2-A final against Grossmont last year, managed to bounce back after a humiliating 3-2 loss to La Jolla Monday.
In that game, Mission Bay--a team known for its fielding--gave up the tying and winning runs on a dropped fly ball.
The scorebook told a different story about Thursday's game: 6-4-3 in the first inning, 4-6-3 in the second, 4-6-3 in the third. Ibarra, Enomoto and first-baseman John Pelligren combined on three double plays that killed USDHS rallies.
Ibarra risked his left knee on those last two because they came with no outs and the bases loaded and the runner at first trying to break up the play. One run scored on each, accounting for the only run production the Dons could muster against Bucs' left-hander Manny Castillo (5-3).
"We usually hustle every day; Coach (Dennis Pugh) says we're the hardest working team in the county," said Ibarra, a 5-foot-3 senior. "But we've lost some key games. We seriously outplayed La Jolla and Uni the first time we played them."
USDHS beat Mission Bay, 2-1, in the first round of league play April 25. Ian Hamilton outdueled Castillo in that one. But Castillo, who is now 4-2 in six starts against the Dons, had a relatively easy time after McDonald (7-1) lost his control and walked in three consecutive runs in Mission Bay's four-run second inning.
McDonald, a 6-6, 200-pound senior, left the game in the fifth inning with five earned runs, five hits, five walks, six strikeouts and one hit batsman to his name.
In the second inning alone, he allowed three consecutive singles with one out, then walked four of the next five batters. McDonald, who entered with the county's best winning percentage (7-0 record), 49 strikeouts and a 1.02 earned-run average, couldn't remember the last time he was so wild.
"I don't know what happened," he said. "I'd not walked in any runs and I usually get the fastball by them. But they're a real good ballclub."
Ivan Espinoza, Pelligren and Eric Serrano had consecutive hits, all pulling the ball to left field. McDonald then walked Jason Martin on four pitches, scoring Espinoza.
He struck out Enomoto for the second out, but then lost an eight-pitch duel against leadoff hitter Jason Diaz, scoring Pelligren.
He walked Ibarra, missing with an inside fastball, and Serrano came home. Then McDonald lost Danny Gil, missing high with a fastball, and Martin strolled home. Finally, he got Shane Stroberg (who grounded out to open the inning) swinging at a 3-2 fastball to end the inning.
"The strike zone was consistent," McDonald shrugged. "I've not had anything like this happen all year."
The other Mission Bay run came in the bottom of the fourth. Enomoto reached on a broken-(aluminum) bat single up the middle, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored when Ibarra (two for three) doubled down the left-field line.
Castillo, in the meantime, breezed. He scattered five hits in seven innings, allowed one earned run and avenged the 2-1 loss last month.
"Manny didn't have his best stuff today, but he did a good job," said Pugh, who needs Castillo and Ibarra to provide leadership for his young team. "They have to be our catalysts, because they've been there before. J.J.'s improved immeasurably since he came here two years ago."
"The situation is we have to win all the rest of our games and hope Uni loses a game to Kearny or La Jolla," said Ibarra, who has a .375 average and is 16 for 16 in stolen-base attempts. "And if we beat them again, we'll be in first place."