Live Oak pitcher Justin Sanders induced five ground balls that stayed in the infield; just one of which went for an out.
Between infield hits, throws that pulled the first baseman off the bag and questionable calls from the umpires, it was one thing after another for Live Oak who couldn’t get out of the inning.
In a key moment in the inning, David Hermann was on second with two outs when Andrew Abbott hit a ground ball to short.
Hermann took off for third, but paused part of the way as the ball passed near him and appeared to pause directly in the path of Josh Alaniz instead of continuing on to third.
Alaniz had to work around the screen, but his hurried throw pulled Michael Porras off the bag, which allowed a run to score from third.
Coach CJ Goularte argued the play to no avail.
Hermann and Abbott both scored and the Dons opened up a 6-3 lead.
Earlier in the inning, the same umpire ruled Porras had pulled his foot from the bag on a potential double play when it looked like Porras’ foot never left first. It was a bang-bang play at the bag, but the umpire emphatically waived his hands indicating the foot had been pulled.
The play started as a ground ball to short where Alaniz threw to second, but the fielder came off the bag before throwing to Porras at first.
So what started out looking like a double play that would have ended the inning with no runs scored, ended with a run scoring from second and two runners on with one out.
Aragon scored two more in the fourth and two more in the seventh to put the game away.
The Dons had hits from eight of its nine hitters, excluding a pinch hitter who had a sacrifice bunt in the seventh. Everyone who had an at bat either had a hit, a run scored or an RBI.
Ryan Field went 3-4 with a run and an RBI to lead all hitters. Alex Athanacio, Chand Franquez and Hermann all had two hit days.
For Live Oak, Mitch Conforti went 2-3 with an RBI to lead the Acorns. John Austin followed, going 1-4 with a run and an RBI and Kyle Riveron went 1-3 with a run and an RBI.
Live Oak committed five errors in the game, a stat that baffled Goularte, who said the defense has been much better than that in the last month.
“I don’t get it,” Goularte said. “Sometimes you just don’t play well and that was the case today. We haven’t played defense like that in a month. … Very uncharacteristic of our guys.”
Asked if Sacred Heart Prep’s artificial infield played a role in the mistakes, Goularte said he didn’t think so.
“We went and took ground balls and played on the football field the past couple of days,” Goularte said.
The game was the final one for five Live Oak seniors.
Martinez had the hit of the game for Live Oak with his RBI double in the second, Michael Porras scored a run on the wild pitch, Austin threw out two runners trying to steal, Alaniz had a hit and Zach Riveron had two putouts.
“(I told them) how much I loved them and how proud I am of all of them for everything they’ve done for the last four years,” Goularte said. “(Thanked them) for dealing with me every single day because I would get on them. Make them do things and pushed them. … They never quit, they never wavered, they continued to put forth the effort to win.”
Hermann went the distance, giving up five runs—four earned—on seven hits and two walks with one strikeout.
Meanwhile, Sanders was out after four innings, giving up eight runs—five earned–on 10 hits and two walks with three strikeouts.
Kyle Riveron threw the final three innings, giving up two runs—one earned— on three hits and two strikeouts.
Both pitchers will be back next season having seen action in both of Live Oak’s playoff games this season.
Meanwhile, Live Oak bade farewell
The inning negated some great offensive production from the lower half of the lineup in the second inning that briefly gave Live Oak a 3-1 lead.
John Austin hit a single into no man’s land between the infield and left field to lead off.
After Zach Riveron popped out to short, Porras reached safely when the Aragon short stop booted the ball in the middle of the infield.
Alejandro Martinez capitalized on the gaff when he turned on the first pitch he saw from Hermann into deep left field, scoring Austin.
With Porras standing on third, the second pitch to Jacob Ryder went to the backstop to put Live Oak up 2-1.
Conforti finished off the inning with a single that brought Martinez in to score.
Live Oak looked like it might keep things interesting after the disastrous top of the third when Kyle Riveron reached on a one-out walk, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch.
Austin brought him home when he grounded out to second to cut the deficit to 6-4.
But in the very next inning, Aragon went back up by four when Hermann hit a single to drive in two runs.
Live Oak didn’t score again until Kyle Riveron’s double in the seventh, but not after Aragon had already gone up 10-4.
An error to lead off the seventh inning turned into a run two batters later when Ryan Field hit a single to score Jordan Tong.
After Field stole second and went to third on a single from Devin Grant, he scored on a sacrifice fly from Athanacio.
Live Oak finishes the season 16-15 overall and advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
The Acorns will return six players who saw significant time this season, including Sanders and Riveron.
“It will obviously keep him hungry. He’s very much a competitor. There were some pitches that seemed like were strikes that didn’t go our way and a couple hits that just kind of found a spot,” Goularte said.
Also returning will be PJ Rochon, Jacob Ryder, Andrew Mendoza and others.