SEA VIEW LEAGUE BASEBALL : Tustin Bounces Back to Defeat Sea Kings

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Trailing in the bottom of the seventh inning is not the best position from which to play, especially after enjoying a big early lead.

Add to that the pressure of a first-place showdown, and things can get downright uncomfortable. The Tustin baseball team found itself playing out such a scenario Wednesday--but the Tillers made the competition sweat.

Tustin scored two runs in its final at-bat for a 7-6 Sea View League victory over visiting Corona del Mar, enabling the Tillers to remain alone atop the league standings.

The deciding run came on a single by pinch-hitter Rick Gonzalez, who drove in pinch-runner Jeff Stapleton from second base.

Stapleton was running for Julio Villalobos, who reached first base when Corona del Mar center fielder Bryson Groat dropped his high fly ball. Stapleton advanced to second on a base hit by Jeff Cunningham.

"I felt real confident we were ready to play today," Tiller Coach Tim O'Donoghue said. "I knew (Corona del Mar) would come back because they're a good team.

"We've been on the other end of a lot of these, and I knew sooner or later that would help us out."

Tustin, which is ranked eighth in Orange County, is 13-4, 5-0 in league play. The Sea Kings are 12-4, 3-2.

Tiller starter Junior Silva (5-1) had his rough moments but kept battling. He pitched a complete game, allowing nine hits and striking out four.

"I thought he did a good job of keeping his composure," O'Donoghue said.

With Tustin--which squandered a 4-0 first-inning lead--trailing, 6-5, Ryan Winmill opened the bottom of the seventh by driving the first pitch from Corona del Mar's Jeff Bowman over the left-field fence for his fourth home run of the season.

"I was really focused," Winmill said. "I said to myself, 'I'm not going to sit back. If my pitch is there, I'm going to hammer it.' "

Bowman, who relieved starter Daniel MacMillan in the first inning, was yanked immediately following the homer. Loser Kevin Stuart (4-2) entered and struck out Jon Lauderdale.

Two batters later, however, Gonzalez delivered the game-winning hit.

"The main characteristic of this team has been to battle back," Sea King Coach Matt Lundin said. "But we have to stop making those early mistakes that force us to battle back."

In other league games:

Saddleback 10, University 2--Tony Torres had two hits and five RBIs to lead Saddleback (9-7-1, 3-2). Pitcher Erasmo Ramirez improved to 4-0.

Woodbridge 8, Newport Harbor 3--The Warriors (7-10, 4-1) scored all their runs in the fifth and sixth innings. Chris Talbott pitched a complete game, striking out six.

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