Catching Tigers by the Tails

Kent Johnson dives back to first base versus LACES.
Photos by Steve Galluzzo

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

All season long, pitching has carried the Palisades High baseball team to victory. On Saturday in San Fernando, the Dolphins found another way to win— and showed they belong in the mix with the best teams in the City Section.

Will Coquillard drove the first pitch of the sixth inning over the right field fence to tie the game and start a five-run explosion that propelled Palisades to an 8-5 victory in the Tiger Classic and kept the Dolphins’ winning streak alive.

“The true measurement of a team is how you handle adversity,” Coach Mike Voelkel said. “I was most proud of our  resliency and toughness facing a really good team at their place. When we needed to execute, we did. We have a number of good pitchers and we throw strikes.”

Palisades’ Jake Nadley (left) is greeted at home plate by Lucas Braun after sliding home for the Dolphins’ seventh run in last Saturday’s come-from-behind tournament win at San Fernando.

For once, Palisades’ ace right-hander Wyatt Loncar wasn’t sharp and the Tigers took advantage, scoring three runs in the third inning. He was relieved in the fourth by Lucas Braun after giving up five hits and surrendering his first walk of the year.

Braun struggled early too and when a single on a chopper over third base plated another run, it looked like this wouldn’t be the Dolphins’ day. However, Braun got a strikeout to escape further damage and keep his team in the game.

The Dolphins’ offense got on track in the fifth when Julian Jacobson and Jake Nadley walked and Cord Vanley smacked a two-run triple. Braun followed with an RBI single to pull Palisades within a run.

“See the ball, hit the ball—that’s all I was really thinking,” said Vanley, who went three-for-four with four RBIs. “Guys in the dugout were positive we’d come back. We’re not relying on one or two guys, it’s the whole team. Everyone giving 100 percent… that’s what it takes.”

Palisades’ Kyle Grassl singles in Saturday morning’s Tiger Classic game at San Fernando. The Dolphins erupted for five runs in the sixth inning to take the lead and held on for an 8-5 victory.
Photo by Steve Galluzzo

To the eyes of assistant coach Lee Sugich, the blow that took the bite out of the Tigers was Coquillard’s blast leading off the next inning and before that frame was done Palisades had turned a one-run deficit into a four-run lead. Nadley’s bunt scored Julian Scissors from third and Vanley’s suicide bunt allowed Conrad Smith and a sliding Nadley to score to make it 7-4. Braun promptly singled to drive home Vanley, then struck out the side in the bottom half. Palisades stranded runners at the corners in the top of the seventh and the Tigers got their first two runners on base in the bottom half before a pair of fly outs brought Palisades within one out of victory. A single brought San Fernando one run closer, but Vanley got the last out at second base and  the Dolphins celebrated their 11th win in a row and 14th victory against a City Section opponent.

“This was my first time [this season] coming out of the bullpen and the first inning was a bit stressful,” Braun said. “It took a little while to get the feel of it. I didn’t really have my best stuff today, but offensively I know we have the ability to hit the ball and we could come back.”

Palisades (15-2) swept LACES 8-3 and 10-0 earlier in the week to stay undefeated in Western League play. The Dolphins face another tough road test Saturday night at 7 at Banning High in Wilmington.