HANFORD — Down 9-0 after the first inning and 14-4 entering the fourth, Hanford could have called it a day. They decided to battle back instead.
Bullpups shortstop Clay Gillum, who was unstoppable at the plate with four hits on Tuesday, started the fourth with a leadoff single. A single and walk by third baseman Edgar Sanchez and catcher Theron Dutra loaded the bases.
After second baseman Flavio Perez came through with an RBI single, it was Gavin Garcia’s turn. Garcia started the day in the outfield and took the mound in relief after his team trailed 11-1.
He drilled the second pitch he saw to left field and over the fences for a grand slam. The dugout went wild after Garcia’s home run and gave him a huge welcome at home plate. It was suddenly 14-9 and the Bullpups exuded the confidence they needed to complete a huge comeback.
“I was just trying to get a base knock and drive a couple runs in,” Garcia said. “I saw it going and I thought to myself, ‘There’s no way this is going out.’”
But El Diamante’s bats were hot as well and Hanford (5-9, 1-2 WYL) couldn’t stop them as they eventually dropped the West Yosemite League contest 18-12. But first-year head coach Flo Perez liked what he saw from his squad.
“Them battling back, that shows a lot of heart especially from a young team like this,” Perez said. “They’re going to be doing something special here in a few years.”
The Bullpups would actually cut the lead to three (14-11) with their seven-run fourth inning, but the Miners had a response every time. Neither team scored in the fifth, but three runs in the sixth put the game away for the Miners.
There was plenty of offense on both sides with the combined 26 runs being the most in any game the Bullpups have played in this season. Gillum spearheaded the Hanford offense going 4-for-5 with three doubles, two RBIs and two runs.
“Really since we were behind so much we had no pressure at the plate so we were relaxed,” Gillum said. “We got to learn from that so next time, even if it is 1-1, tight ball game, we can relax up at the plate and do the same thing.”
Outfielder Juaron Watts-brown was 3-for-4 on the day with two runs and Garcia finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs, two runs and a walk. The team had a total of 15 hits on the day.
Garcia also pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed six runs on four hits. He had one strikeout, walked four and hit two batters. He came into a bases loaded situation in the second and was able to get the 3-1 putout to stop the bleeding.
“One thing I liked about Gavin, he came in with great composure,” Perez said. “I don’t think the score affected him and he came in and got us out of a jam and gave us a chance to win the game.”
Starter Christian Garcia struggled with his time on the mound and made only two outs before being replaced by Beau Wilkinson, who pitched one inning.
El Diamante came out swinging in the first and made plenty of contact. A single, double and hit batter loaded the bases for the Miners. A bases-clearing double quickly made it 3-0 and they were off to the races.
Hanford got a run back in the on a wild pitch and three more in the second, but the Miners kept pace adding two in the second and three more in the third.
Only 14 games into his first season, Perez said he’s trying to teach the boys lessons about accountability, respect and hard work. He wants them to be able to apply those principles regardless of where they go in life.
“He’s done everything excellent here,” Garcia said. “He’s keeping this program on track and personally, I like him as a coach and as a person.”
The Bullpups get another shot at the Miners today at 4 p.m., but it’ll be on the road this time.
“Hopefully we can hit like we did and not have that one bad inning,” Gillum said.