LAND O'LAKES — The local warming trend Tuesday night was confined to the pitcher's mound of Baisley Field. Even as the mercury dipped into the low 40s, the pitch counts of Jason Garcia and Jay Mattos soared into the 100s.
For the better part of the Class 5A, District 7 contest, Garcia, Land O'Lakes' emerging right-handed junior, stood throw-to-throw with Mattos, the veteran Ridgewood righty. Both brought consistent heat, nasty breaking stuff and plenty of frigid-weather fortitude. In the end, though, Garcia brought one element Mattos couldn't.
Garcia got RBIs from four Gators, including a home run by No. 9 hitter Austin Costa, in Land O'Lakes' 4-1 triumph.
"Jason's got great stuff," Gators coach Calvin Baisley said.
By contrast, Mattos' stuff (six IP, eight hits, 10 strikeouts, two walks) was offset by a Ridgewood batting order that left 11 runners stranded, including seven in the first three innings.
"Mattos should've got a game ball; he pitched good enough to win," said Rams coach Larry Beets, whose club (2-5) has dropped its past five. "When you put your horse out there you've got to support him."
Credit Garcia (six IP, six hits, seven strikeouts, five walks) for helping cut off that support. After hitting Jon Balk on the game's first pitch and walking two of the next three hitters, Garcia escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Travis Gall and forcing George Duncan to ground out to second base.
Two innings later, he escaped a no-out, bases-loaded situation.
By that point, the Gators (5-0) had taken a 2-0 lead. They made it 3-0 in the bottom of the third on Austin Aubuchon's RBI single, and got their final run in the sixth on Costa's homer to left.
"The last couple of games we're starting to play defense," Baisley said. "We've just got to stop putting so many people on base because it's going to come back to bite us."
Garcia gave way in the seventh to Aubuchon, who fanned the side to end the game. Only two of Ridgewood's 10 strikeouts were on called third strikes, but Beets was more concerned with his players' errant swings.
"We were jumping away, swinging at it before it got there. I mean, (Garcia) knew it," Beets said. "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out. If you're not going to hit the curveball, (he's) going to throw it at you."