The Palomar College Comets shutout the Mt. San Jacinto Eagles 4-0 to preserve its first place standing in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference on March 22.
The highlight of the game was the strong pitching performance of Palomar’s Emilio Esquibel as he baffled Eagles hitters all afternoon long en route to his fourth victory of the season. He would finish the day having allowed six hits while striking out two and walking one.
Esquibel’s performance was dominating. He consistently threw strikes and dared the San Jacinto hitters to put the ball into play. When they obliged, the majority of the put outs were on the ground, 12 of them to be exact, and one was turned into a critical double play.
His pitching skills were on full display against San Jacinto as he had to get himself out of a few jams early.
He was most stressed in the top of the second. After getting Manny Mendoza to ground out, Jaime Walls reached base on an error by shortstop Dennis Morton. Zach Fyfe then had an infield single to third and Kyle Mead walked to load the bases. Fortunately for Esquibel, David Alonzo hit into the aforementioned double play to end the threat.
He was able to strand six Eagle base runners through the first four innings and only allowed one more hitter to reach base through the rest of the game.
He is no flame thrower and he would be the first to tell you that; his fast ball tops out at 82 to 83 miles per hour and he also has a late breaking curve ball to go along with a split-finger that he uses as his “out” pitch. He makes up for it by changing speeds as well as location and keeping the hitters off balance.
“I’m not a really big strikeout guy so I just try to pitch to contact,” Esquibel declared.
Contrast that with Augie Gallardo; San Jacinto’s starting pitcher. Gallardo is a four pitch pitcher featuring a fastball, curveball, slider and change but his control leaves a lot to be desired. He completed his afternoon having allowed two runs, both of them were earned, while walking six and striking out five in his six innings of work.
Despite Gallardo’s control issues the Palomar Comet hitters failed to take advantage early. The team’s best chance came in the third inning. After Aaron Blackwell struck out, Gallardo walked Chris Stratton, Dillan Smith and Dennis Morton in succession.
Unfortunately for the Comets catcher Francis Christy popped out and Anthony Fernandez hit into a fielder’s choice; visibly irritating head baseball coach Buck Taylor in the dugout.
Regardless of the early frustration Comet hitters kept trying and their efforts paid off in the subsequent inning. The sequence began with a Nathan Mann base on balls and a single by Alec Salcedo to put runners on first and second.
It was here where Gallardo made his most crucial mistake. He was not having much success with his off speed pitches so he had to go with his fastball. Unfortunately for Gallardo he threw it up and out over the plate and Aaron Blackwell deposited the pitch into the right center field gap, scoring both Mann and Salcedo. The Comets never looked back.
Palomar scored two more insurance runs in the seventh for a 4-0 lead which they never relinquished. Gary Cornish pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve the shutout.
When asked about his reaction to the game Coach Taylor said, “Pitching wise we absolutely were lights out…Offensively we’ve got a long way to go. We left a lot of runners on second and third base. We might have left 14 guys on base today.”
Winning teams lean on their strengths and the Comets did just that with the pitching staff but the hitting and the offensive production are woefully inadequate if the team wants to continue to be competitive. That is something the team will have to work on moving forward.