There is a method to El Camino's madness.
Julio Lara/Daily Journal
El Camino's Dante Ordonez earned his first win of the season, allowing one run in the Colts' 3-1 victory over Hillsdale Wednesday.
At first glance, the Colts' non-league schedule opened a lot of eyes because of the quality of opponent manager Victor Messer put in front of his baseball team. And on paper, with El Camino in the PAL's Ocean Division, games against the likes of Serra, Riordan, Burlingame and Sacred Heart Prep for example, looked like mismatches.
But consider that of El Camino's eight losses, six have come against teams that "supposedly" are better than the Colts. And in those games, the average margin of defeat less than two runs.
So while there might be some Peninsula Athletic League baseball fans surprised by El Camino's latest win, a 3-1 decision over Bay Division contender Hillsdale High School, no one that wears the red and gray finds anything surprising about it.
"That's what we're trying to do. That's why we put this schedule together like we did," Messer said. "Hillsdale is a great ball club. We scheduled all these schools so we can try to get ourselves better prepared for league against a higher level of competition. All those teams are good and hopefully someone will see we're just as good as they are. No disrespect to our league, because there are some great teams in our league too, but we put this schedule together because we want to play that better competition."
Messer's commitment to playing tougher teams early on has paid off so far for the Colts. El Camino currently sits at 4-0 in Ocean play. All four of those wins were blowouts -- the Colts out-scored Jefferson and San Mateo by a combined 56-4, or an average of 14-1 per game.
Against Hillsdale, the Colts played a clean baseball game. They committed one error to the Knights' three. And while Hillsdale manager Neal Donohoe has preached for weeks his team must do the little things right to win ball games, it was an error in the fourth that opened the gate for El Camino.
Hillsdale jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second following a Michael Camel home run. But the blast was one of just four hits the Knights would manage the entire game off of starting pitcher Dante Ordonez, and relievers Javier Espinoza and Dominic Aparicio, who came in tight spots and prevented the Knights from scoring.
"A lot of things happened today," Messer said. "Our pitching has been doing really well. We got some key moments when our pitching came through and did a great job."
"Just throw strikes, get ahead and go after them," Ordonez said when asked what the key to his first win of the year was. "It takes one or two innings to get into my groove -- the first three batters. If I can get through them, I can get through anyone."
"He's been pitching some great games for us," Messer said. "He did well against Serra earlier this year. So, we knew he could do well and we knew this is a good hitting ball club. And he came out and did his job. Our pitching did really good today."
El Camino got the support it needed in the fourth following a walk to Dominic Liuliani and a single by Nick Moisant. El Camino plated those base runners thanks in large part to a pair of Hillsdale throwing errors.
"We had some great at-bats today," Messer said. "We try to preach putting the ball in play, contact, doing the little things we need to do to win. That's how we play. We're not going to come up and hit the 900-foot home run all the time. We're going to do the the little things. And today, it just worked out. We took advantage of the situation. We didn't plan for it. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
Aparicio was responsible for thwarthing Hillsdale's most serious equalizing threath in the fifth. The Knights loaded the bases ahead of the heart of their order. But Aparicio got Taran Poss to fly out in shallow left and then played hockey goalkeeper and kept a Camel smash in front of him to retire big No. 24 at first.
El Camino added an insurance run in the seventh thanks to a Josh Eclavea sacrifice fly to centerfield.
"They're good," Ordonez said of Hillsdale. "We're good. I'm confident about our team. We aren't (intimidated). They're another team to us. We're confident in our team."