It’s hard to remember sometimes that Riley Creech is still just a sophomore. Creech is one piece of a very talented group of underclassmen littered throughout El Diamante’s program. As a freshman last year, Creech was brought up to varsity toward the end of the season and was immediately inserted as the Miners’ number two starter. The Miners’ young hurler added a second and much needed piece to anchor what was a rotation that had bounced through many number two guys to try and compliment staff ace Mason Garispe, who went on to win Co-WYL pitcher of the year. So even though he was just a freshman, Creech embraced the opportunity and the pressure and delivered quality start after quality start. The looming question involving his age and whether he was ready or not was quickly thrown out the window. Assuming they would have stuck to their normal rotation, the Miners would have trotted out a freshman as their starting pitcher if they made the Valley Championship, and not a single person in an El D uniform would have questioned it.
Fast forward a calendar year and now as a sophomore, Creech was up to his old tricks. After a somewhat rocky start to the year, Creech was dialed in and borderline unhittable on Tuesday in the rain against Fresno High, one of the top teams in Division II.
The game absolutely flew by. Inning after inning, both teams could not produce any kind of offense. In the very beginning it seemed like the Miners couldn’t catch a break. They had only registered one hit, and every hard hit ball was right at somebody.
Then the tides began to turn, and suddenly, the Miners were on the attack.
In the 5th and 6th innings, the Miners were putting all the pressure on the Warriors of Fresno High. In each inning, they were grinding at bats and getting guys into scoring position. But even though they couldn’t scratch out a run, the 7th inning was greeted by an unlikely hero.
Fabian Luna had two plate appearances all season entering Tuesday’s game. A walk and a strikeout were the only offensive stats to his name for 2018. But with Parker Boswell now on the shelf with Mono, Luna saw his name inserted in the lineup. The lineup card caught everyone by surprise, including Luna. It seemed like a no-brainer to move Brent Vazquez from designated hitter to first base, and to have someone else fill in as the DH. However, Head Coach Jake Kiser decided to roll the dice and take a chance on Luna.
Luna finished the game 1 for 2 with two rockets into centerfield. One of them was caught, and the other dropped in for what ended up being the game winning single, scoring TJ Martinez from second. The first run of the game from either team also ended up being the decider. In the bottom half of the 7th, Creech stranded the tying run on third to seal it. It was a win that was more than needed, and although the Miners only registered one run and two hits, it was the type of win that could send this team on a surge as the calendar speeds through March.
For only the second time all season, the Miners had a game where they tallied zero errors. Everytime a play needed to be made, the Miners made it. The two biggest plays on defense came, once again, from underclassmen. A diving play in left field by Austin Beno, and a slow roller to Cole Yoshida that was fielded cleanly and fired to first with the tying run on second, were two plays that changed the entire complexity of the game. Without Beno’s catch in left, the Warriors would have been given a guy in scoring position to try and do some damage. If Yoshida doesn’t throw the runner out at first on a slow roller that requires picking up a soaking wet baseball and throwing it off balanced, then all of a sudden two men are on with only one out. Without those two crucial outs on defense, that ballgame very well could have had a different outcome. It just seemed like the baseball gods had finally turned in the Miners’ favor, and good karma had been catching up with them. El Diamante simply couldn’t catch a break throughout the first 9 games, but on Tuesday, that all changed.
Clean defense and dominant pitching proved to be the reasons why the Miners walked out of that matchup with a win. The game itself wasn’t pretty, and the conditions were even worse. It rained consistently from the second inning on, but the Miners did the one thing that Fresno High couldn’t; they made the best out of a bad scenario.
The offense still has some ways to go. If Riley Creech wasn’t dealing, all it could have taken was one bad inning for the Miners to be toast. However, that’s not what happened. Creech was locked in, and the defense was lockdown. That’s been the story of El D baseball for years. They play good defense, they throw strikes, and they scratch out a run whenever they can. Although that’s always been their formula, it still isn’t an excuse to be hitting .229 as a team. Run support will be crucial against better schools, but the Miners have shown this year that they can turn up the heat when they face better pitching. Prime examples of that would be putting up 10 runs against a very scrappy Edison team with good pitching, and then carrying a 6-5 lead into the 6th inning against the defending Division I champions, Clovis High. The track record the Miners are currently carrying this year can be very misleading and confusing. But they’re on a mission to show the first month and a half of the season is nothing but a fluke.
Wins like the 1-0 catfight on Tuesday are the type of wins that can completely resurrect a season. It wasn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but it was a 100% team win. This team is full of kids that don’t lack confidence and swagger, if they can continue translate that killer instinct they all have, then this will be a team capable of doing lots of damage.