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Region baseball: King edges Mitchell

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Thu. May 1, 2014 | Matt Baker | Email

TRINITY — When Mitchell’s Alex Mendez hit a bases-loaded grounder to third in the bottom of the sixth inning, King catcher Jose Lopez did everything right to prepare for the game-saving double play.

That didn’t stop his coach from worrying.

“Usually, when you try to do it … you see the ball go down the line,” King coach Jim Macaluso said.

But not Thursday.

The Lions escaped the jam with a rare 5-2-3 double play and held on for a 4-2 win over Mitchell in the Class 6A region quarterfinals.

By qualifying for its third consecutive region semifinal, King (21-6) eliminated the Mustangs (17-11) for the second year in a row and ended the prep career of ace Cobi Johnson.

The Florida State recruit and possible first-round draft pick struck out nine batters through 51/3 innings with a fastball that touched 91 mph. In front of almost a dozen pro scouts, Johnson threw 56 of his 88 pitches for strikes and stole two bases.

“He’s a good one,” Macaluso said.

King finally broke Johnson in the sixth. After Zion Lawrence earned a leadoff walk, Lopez launched an outside fastball for a triple off the rightfield wall. Michael Taylor added an RBI double to end Johnson’s night, and Kobe Barnum walked with the bases loaded to push the lead to 4-1.

Mitchell kept it close thanks, in part, to some lucky sixth-inning bounces. Ryan Fontaine reached on a roller. Kamren Powers singled with a well-placed bunt. Ryan DelNegro’s grounder caromed off the mound for an RBI base hit that loaded the bases.

But King ended the rally with a break of its own, a double play Macaluso said his team practices once a decade.

“I just always hope it doesn’t come up in the game,” Macaluso said. “But it was the right two guys.”
Mendez chopped the ball to senior third baseman Bubby Terp. Lopez ripped off his mask, and Terp charged to fire the ball home.

“I was ready for it,” Lopez said.

Lopez — a possible draft pick with one of the bay area’s strongest arms — fired the ball to Barnum at first to end the inning and preserve Tyeler Checkley’s ninth win of the spring.

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