By Kyle Foster
Twitter: @NapaKyle @NapaSportsLive
The Napa High baseball team took a ginormous step towards making the CIF Sac-Joaquin section playoffs Thursday by beating Rodriguez 7-0.
“When you have the ability to control your destiny and you’re able to play some good ball and fight your way in that’s all you can ask for,” Napa coach Todd Pridy said of the important win. “And right now the boys are playing good baseball and they’ve given themselves a shot, which it’s a lot of fun to watch them play right now.”
The Indians’ (14-10 overall, 8-5 Monticello Empire League) scored the opening run of the game in the bottom of the first. Jason Pridy who had walked and moved up to second on a Charles Gravett single later scored when Brandon Herter singled.
Following the run in the first the game was full of each team not taking advantage of opportunities to score, until Napa broke the game open with a four spot in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“That was nice,” Napa senior catcher/shortstop/pitcher Caden Cortese said of the outburst of runs in the fifth. “I mean all day it was kinda we were just getting snubbed here and there, and I mean it’s not like our offense wasn’t there it’s just that inning it kind of exploded and Rod kinda fell down and their pitcher kinda was just getting a little bit more visible for our hitters, so we just took advantage.”
“I don’t know if anything really changed,” Pridy said of the four-run inning. “We had men on base for a number of innings and we were ever so close to popping that thing open and that’s one of the elements of improvement that we’re seeing is these guys are relentless at the plate. We’re not giving away at-bats. We’re going up there and we’re smart about what we’re doing and we’re confident about what we’re doing, so yeah it was a tight game and those ones are scary a little bit when you have opportunities and you don’t cash in in those early, middle innings, but that we just kept grinding. And I might be the only one that says that over and over again, but it’s what this group needs to do, just grind to the end and be happy with our effort at the end of the day.”
After the big fifth the Indians added on by scoring two more in the sixth.
Cortese got the win for Napa. Over five innings of work he struck out nine and walked four. He threw 99 total pitches.
“We would love to see him manage that pitch count a little bit earlier in the game, but you know he is effective,” Pridy said of his starter on the day. “He can pound that zone when needed, and you know he’s getting up on the bump and cutting it loose — sometimes that rides up in the zone a little bit. But he’s done a great job for us since moving to that second starter of the week, and that has been a big part of what has kind of evolved here.”
“I just had confidence in my defense and in coach Chatham (pitching coach),” Cortese said of what was helping him during his outing. “I’ve been with him (Chatham) for now three years catching behind the dish and I’ve learned so much from him and just trusting him with everything and not shaking off any of his call just it’s really easy to go through a game and I mean my pitch count kinda go up because I wasn’t hitting my spots, but yeah with Chatty calling pitches I always feel confident on the mound.”
Colton Maher threw the final two innings of the game. He threw 28 pitches, walked one, and struck out one.
“I hope that the folks that come and watch the game have an appreciation for what he does for us,” Pridy said of how important Maher is. “You know he’s batted leadoff for us all year and done a great job. He runs great at-bats, (he is) a very smart intelligent baseball player. He patrols that outfield. You know we had Jason in the infield against Armijo and put Colton in left at Armijo because it’s the toughest field to play. He had no problem with it he just you know nods and says ‘alright, let’s go’, so from being a leadoff hitter, to a real quiet leader here in the dugout and on the field, to an exceptionally strong throwing arm in the outfield, to the versatility of coming up on the bump and filling up the strike zone — he’s been as big a part as anybody on this team this year.”
“Colton did pretty good,” Cortese said of how Maher pitched after him. “I mean him being my cousin is pretty nice knowing him my whole life and Colton has always been right there with me and playing baseball. I’ve played with him since I was like eight years old and just being with him makes me feel like I’m twelve years old all over again when he’s on the mound because we just joke and it’s never too serious, but if it is a serious situation we both know how to handle it together. I always have confidence in him.”
Napa is starting to find its groove as team having won five straight games following Thursday’s win.
“Well right now, I mean all aspects of the game are kind of in sync,” Pridy added on his team’s winning ways lately. “We moved Caden to kinda the Thursday end of the week starter — he’s done an amazing job, he did today. And the bats are rolling, we’ve got some guys that are versatile. You know we’ve got Omar (Gonzalez) bouncing between the mound, short, second base; we’ve got Jason (Pridy) moving from center field into second base; we’ve got Charles (Gravett) bouncing from first base to the outfield because we have a small roster and the ability to make these moves and still be able to compete defensively once we make those changes on the mound that’s been a big key to what’s going on right now.”
For Cortese it’s the fact that the team is a very tight-knit group.
“I just think that we’re good at working with the team and we always hang out outside of baseball,” he said. “It’s not just the baseball aspect, it’s about getting together and just being friends and here nobody is about themselves it’s all for the team first.”
Up next for Napa is a trip to Vanden-Fairfield on Friday at 4 p.m. The game is a makeup game. Rodriguez will also have a makeup game Friday against American Canyon at 4 p.m.
Napa can lock up a playoff berth next week when they host rival Vintage on Tuesday at 4 p.m., or Wednesday when they visit Vintage.
“It’s a little scary knowing that I only have two games in my baseball career, but at the same time I’m also very excited to be able to play my crosstown rivals and some of my friends over there,” Cortese said of Big Game week. “Hopefully we can get two wins next week.”
“They’re going to be fun,” Pridy said of facing rival Vintage next week. “Even in years when one sides been down to the other they’ve always been battles. Just crazy things happen in these games and I’ll tell you what with all the possible distractions that are available — they’re there, we just need to maintain and continue what we’re doing. And if we continue what we’re doing then we’ll be pleased with whatever happens at the end of the day. I think that’s the important thing. There’s going to be a lot of people; there’s going to be signs on the fences; there’s going to be a lot of attention given, but at the end of the day I told the guys ‘the baselines are still 90 feet, still 60 feet 6 inches from bump to plate, and it’s a baseball game that needs to be played. And if you let too much of the attention and detractors get in your way you’re not going to be at your best,’ We’ll take all that into consideration and just be excited about the opportunities that are in front of us and do our best we can.”
The win also clinches another season where the Indians will finish the year above .500 in both MEL and overall on the season.
“Well, some years are better than others statistically and numerically, but the key is to find growth, to see growth through the course of the season,” Pridy explained of knowing they’ll finish the year with a winning record in the 27-game regular season. “We’ve seen that with this team. You know with this coaching staff there’s not a whole lot of things we do different from year-to-year it’s just the horses that you’ve got, and we’re seeing improvement out of these guys and that at the end of the day that’s all you can ask for is to see growth, just to see improvement, and to see them gelling at the right time and we’ve kinda got a sense of that going on right now.”