After fouling a pair of pitches off his left ankle, a hobbled Kalym Espaillat limped into the batters box and proceeded to produce a game-changing hit for the Snowden baseball team.
The freshman roped a line drive to center field that drifted over the head of Elias Peirera and rolled to the fence, clearing the bases and igniting a six-run fourth inning as the Cougars cruised to a second consecutive City League title with a 9-1 win over New Mission on Saturday night at Monan Park.
Espaillat (2 for 4, 4 RBIs) and his older brother, Luis (2 for 5, 2 RBIs), paced the attack, while sophomore Joshua Baez shined on the mound, striking out 10 batters in six innings to earn MVP honors.
“This year took a great amount of focus,” said Snowden coach Christian Ortiz. “The hardest thing is trying to win again and these kids really wanted it. They were there seven days a week and they really earned this one.”
Baez scored the first run of the game in the third inning, using his blistering speed to score on a ground ball to short. A batter later, Luis Espaillat’s RBI single scored Kiobel Lugo to make it 2-0.
New Mission starter Brian Sanchez walked four batters in the fourth to push across another run before Kalym Espaillat’s bases-clearing hit doubled the Cougars’ lead to 6-0.
Luis Espaillat drove in his brother with a liner to left field and scored on a wild pitch, capping off the six-run frame and giving Snowden a commanding 8-0 lead.
“I knew I was going to get hit twice,” Kalym Espaillat said. “But I knew I had a chance to get those runs in so I just did what I had to do. Going back-to-back there’s more to come. This is a treat but we got to continue to keep working.”
A 6-foot-1-inch righthander, Baez dominated the Titans (17-3) lineup from the start with an overpowering fastball. He allowed just three hits and two walks.
“It took hard work from everybody and it was a team sport and we all came along,” Baez said. “I just tried to focus all the way through and focus on throwing strikes and being consistent.”
Up next for the Cougars (17-4) is the Division 4 North tournament where they will look to ride the momentum of their City League title victory in the state tournament.
“This prepares us for states because it sets the mood,” Baez said. “Now it’s all about hard work and staying focused and we’re going to battle as a team.”