If the Centennial baseball team didn’t have enough motivation for Thursday’s matchup against Bishop Gorman beforehand, it certainly got it before the game’s first pitch.
Just after warmups in right field, the Gaels were seen taunting the Bulldogs by ripping apart a familiar blue jersey.
“One of their players used to play for us and they took one of our jerseys,” Centennial junior Jake Portaro said. “That got me a little mad.”
Portaro took his anger out on the field, going 3-for-4 with two home runs, a double and four RBIs to lead the Bulldogs past the Gaels, 6-5. It was their second win against Gorman in the last eight days. Centennial (23-11) clinched a spot in the Sunset Region championship at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Should the Bulldogs lose, a second game would be played to determine the champion.
“Everyone says Gorman this, Gorman that but I’m not afraid of those guys,” Portaro said. “I came out and showed it.”
The Bulldogs fell behind early on a two-run home run by Brandon Wulff in the first, but they rallied back in the third after Portaro connected on a long ball himself.
“(Jack Little) came with a first-pitch curveball, which surprised me,” Portaro said. “But I knew he was going to try to blow it by me with the fastball, so I just sat on it and ripped it. We were fired up for the rest of the game after that.”
Ricky Koplow led off the third inning with a walk and scored on a double-fielding error. Kyle Horton’s grounder went through the legs of Cadyn Grenier at short and Matt Judd in left to score Koplow from first and make it 2-1. Portaro’s two-run home run then gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead.
Gorman responded in the fourth when Bronson Bowe hit a two-run double to make it 4-3.
But Portaro wasn’t done just yet. In his third at-bat in the top of the fifth, he took a first-pitch changeup over the left field wall to score Horton and make it 5-4. He then pitched three innings of relief to earn the win.
“He ate his Wheaties this morning,” said 15-year Centennial head coach Charlie Cerrone, who earned his 350th career win. “Jake had a good day at the plate for us and a good day on the mound.”
Gorman’s Grant Robbins led off the sixth with a single and tied the game, 5-5, on an RBI single by Beau Capanna.
In the seventh, Travis Stevens ended his 12-pitch at-bat with a one-out single to left. Alex Nicoll then came in to pinch run and stole second base before scoring on a throwing error to make it 6-5.
After walking Wulff to start the seventh, Portaro retired Andrew Newson, Nick Gates and Michael Blasko in a row to end the game.
“We have really good team cohesion,” Cerrone said. “Even our guys in the dugout that don’t see much time call themselves the ‘Bench Mob.’ Everybody is contributing. I like our guys. It’s a good group. Bracket-wise, we’re in good shape but we still have a lot more work to do.”
Capanna was 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Gaels (26-5), who will play the winner of Desert Oasis and Palo Verde at 4 p.m. at Centennial.
Palo Verde 21, Arbor View 7 — Bradley Lewis went 4-for-5 with a double, a triple, two runs and four RBIs, and the Panthers exploded for 13 runs in the top of the fourth to down the Aggies in five innings.
Yodai Nakamura finished 4-for-5 with a double, two runs and four RBIs, and teammate Colin Janison was 3-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs for Palo Verde, which scored all of its runs in the last two innings. The Panthers sent 18 batters to the plate and had 12 hits in the fourth inning.
Will Hamilton had a triple and two RBIs, and Sam Powers added two hits and three RBIs for Palo Verde (14-18), which meets Desert Oasis (15-20) at 1 p.m. on Friday at Centennial.
Gabe Gonzalez was 2-for-3 with a run for the Aggies (24-9), who led 3-0 after three innings.
Desert Oasis 8, Shadow Ridge 7 — The Diamondbacks scored four runs in the top of the seventh to take a two-run lead and held on to edge the Mustangs.
Chris Van Kuren went 2-for-4 with two doubles, and Alex Tafesh was 1-for-3 with a two-run homer and a walk for Desert Oasis.
Zach Rickard pitched 2 2/3 innings of relief to earn the win and took part in the biggest play of the game. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, Shadow Ridge’s Eric Jordan attempted to advance home on a wild pitch, but was thrown out at the plate to end the game.
Jordan Hand was 2-for-3 with a double and two runs to lead Shadow Ridge, which got two hits and a run from both Jordan and Tyler Burton. Francisco Robles added a double for the Mustangs (21-13).