BCHS holds on for second straight D-II baseball championship

VISALIA — Just when you thought Bakersfield Christian was going to roll to its second straight Central Section baseball title, the Eagles’ Division-II opponent Atascadero went and made things interesting with a seventh-inning rally.

As it turned out, the Greyhounds’ comeback attempt served to only delay the inevitable.

With the tying run at the plate, BCHS sophomore right-hander Cale Nielson got the final two outs to complete what had been a dominant performance from star teammate Mason Brassfield, closing out a 4-2 Eagles’ victory for the program’s third section title in four years.

“The boys had the passion this year, they worked hard and they went out and got it,” Bakersfield Christian coach Mark Ratekin said.

The victory was the 16th straight for No. 2 Bakersfield Christian (26-5), which hasn’t lost a game in nearly two months. No. 9 Atascadero (20-11), which upset No. 8 Lompoc, top-seeded Cabrillo and No. 5 Santa Maria-St. Joseph to reach the final at Valley Strong Ballpark.

“We’re a younger team this year, but I think the work ethic was there,” Ratekin said. “And they just kept grinding all year. This was their goal and state (regionals) is just a bonus.”

Now BCHS will await its next challenge. The Southern California Regional playoff brackets will be unveiled on Sunday.

On Friday, the Eagles took control of the game early, scratching out a few runs in the first and adding solo runs in the third and fourth to take a 4-0 lead.

That looked to be plenty for Brassfield, a talented left-hander with the sub-1.00 ERA.

Brassfield limited Atascadero to just one hit through four innings, striking out seven with two punchouts in each of the second, third and fourth innings. He had three Ks in the fifth, sandwiched around a walk and a single to work himself out of trouble.

“Man, he’s had an unbelievable season,” Ratekin said. “From where he was as a freshman to how he’s developed, only giving up seven earned runs all year, and putting on a performance today like he did … I mean, he’s special.”

Another walk to open the sixth followed by a fielding error put runners on the corners, but Brassfield induced a double play and then struck out Greyhounds’ clean-up hitter Zach Savino for the third time to end the threat.

In the seventh, back-to-back singles and a one-out fielding error broke up the shutout and ended the night for Brassfield, who finished the night allowing four hits and two unearned runs with 11 strikeouts.

Nielson entered the game with one out and runners at the corners. He allowed one run to score on an infield grounder, but then got lead-off hitter Jack Thomspon to line out to Luke Mann in center field to end the game.

“This is my third one in four years and this one is probably one of my favorites,” Brassfield said. “Just being able to have the start in this game, it was just an honor.”

The title is the third for Brassfield, who improved to 11-2, falling just short of his fifth shutout of the season.

Bakersfield Christian opened the scoring in the bottom of the first against Atascadero left-hander Chase Viale.

With one out, Kadyn Kirkley walked, was balked to second, moved to third on a wild pitch and after Deakin Brinkley walked, he scored a sacrifice fly by Danny Aguirre. McCoy Silicz followed with a triple to deep center field to drive home Brinkley for a 2-0 lead.

“It feels great,” said Silicz of the title. “It feels awesome. We played hard and worked hard for this. We started off hot with two runs and Mason shutdown on the mound, kept our momentum throughout the game, and won the game.

“I was just trying to put the bat on the ball, and it worked. We got a couple of runs on it and that’s where it started.”

The Eagles added another run in the third when Brinkley was hit by a pitch and moved to third on a two-base throwing error by Viale on an errant pickoff attempt.

Aguirre followed with a double to make it 3-0. Silicz and Logan Templeton both walked to load the bases, but Aguirre was thrown out at home plate trying to score on a pop fly into shallow center field by Brassfield.

On the play, Aguirre collided with Savino, the Greyhounds’ catcher, who was blocking the plate a few feet up the line while taking the throw. After a brief discussion among the umpires, Aguirre was ejected for leveling the catcher. Aguirre finished 2 for 2 with three RBIs.

His replacement, London Anderson drove in the Eagles’ final run of the day with a solid single with two outs in the fourth, chasing Trent Martin home.

“This (team), we have the heart,” Brassfield said. “We have so much chemistry. Everybody seemed to be in unity throughout this whole year. I feel like we’ve all really bonded a lot, too. I’m just so happy for everybody.”