Providence baseball slugs its way to win in league opener

BURBANK — Baserunners were aplenty for the Providence High boys' baseball team in its league opener against Pacifica Christian on Tuesday evening.

The Pioneers put at least five batters on base in each inning, and seven in three multi-run innings, to cap timely hitting en route to a 12-4 win over the Seawolves at Schafer Field in Ralph Foy Park.

With the win, Providence improves to 5-1 on the season after a convincing nonleague campaign in which the Pioneers outscored their opponents, 57-10, in the four wins. The squad already matched its win total from last season in Liberty League play in Tuesday's tilt that Pioneers Coach Steven Knez called a statement game.

"We won one league game last year, and before that it had been a while, so we wanted to send a message in Game 1," said the fourth-year coach, who also reached last season's win total with the victory Tuesday. "We're no longer the doormat. We're going to win some games."

Against the Seawolves, Knez saw his top four batters in the lineup combine for seven hits and seven runs batted in, highlighted by Thomas Keller's three-for-four day, which included a pair of triples.

Pitcher Sean Holt notched his second win of the season. The sophomore struck out six batters in six innings of work, allowing two earned runs.

"Their pitcher did a good job of mixing up pitches and hitting his spots," said Seawolves Coach Julian Chavez, whose team falls to 1-4 overall. "Their hitters capitalized on the runners on base with some RBIs and balls in the gap."

Providence (5-1, 1-0) loaded the bases in four separate innings — the first coming in the opening inning where the Pioneers scored three runs. Mason Inumerable's infield hit scored Dante Cano for the game's first run.

Cano led off the inning with a single, and it would be the lone ball hit out of the infield in the three-run first. Instead, the Pioneers picked up their second run on a balk from Pacifica Christian's starter Sammy Syrett and played small ball efficiently to score on a RBI-groundout from Harrison Pyros.

"Our main focus was to put the ball in play with two strikes," said Knez, who received a multi-hit games from Cano, Keller and Inumerable, the No. 1, 2, and 4 batters in the lineup, respectively. "We struggled with that in our last game, but we did much better tonight."

Pacifica Christian responded to the quick start with three runs over the third and fourth innings to tie the game at 3 in the top of the fourth. Providence committed costly throwing errors in each inning, leading to the three runs on two singles.

The top of the order for the Pioneers did its damage again in the bottom half of the fourth inning, sparked by a double from Cano, who was picked up on a triple off the bat of Keller. Keller scored on an error on the play to give Providence a 5-3 advantage. The lead garnered in the inning would not be relinquished; rather, the Pioneers outscored the Seawolves, 9-1, to end the game.

"It was close through four or five innings, but then they opened the door for us," Knez said. "We need to see more close games, and be in pressure situations. This was our first real test."

Pyros' double plated Holt in the three-run fourth off Ryan Knight, who relieved Syrett.

Knight issued three walks in the fifth inning — the latter of which came with the bases loaded, bringing home Ryan Chow. The Pioneers left three on base in the inning, however, as a double play minimized the output.

Pacifica Christian added one run in the top of the sixth on Knight's RBI, shortly before the Pioneers tacked on four in the bottom half, highlighted by Keller's second triple that scored Chow and Holt and capped the scoring.

Jonathan Max relieved Holt for the seventh inning and was aided by a double play to end the game.

Providence will again play the Seawolves on Thursday, the second of a home-and-home series.

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