Immanuel baseball erupts late to claim conference opener

Eagles score three runs in sixth inning to pull out 4-2 victory over Hanford West, set up showdown with first place Exeter

Immanuel High’s Aiden Vossler dives safely back into first base as Hanford West High’s first baseman Michael Ritchie applies a late tag during the sixth inning of the Eagles’ Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division baseball matchup with the Huskies on March 18 at Immanuel Sports Complex’s The Yard. Vossler scored the tying run as Immanuel scored three times in the frame to pull out a 4-2 victory. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published March 19, 2024  • 
11:00 am

REEDLEY – Immanuel High showed some championship mettle in the clutch during its Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division baseball opener on Monday night.

Trailing the Hanford West Huskies by a run in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Eagles pushed across three runs on four hits to rally for a 4-2 victory at the Immanuel Sports Complex’s The Yard. It was the team’s fourth win in five games, and marked a strong bounceback from a 21-5 cross-division road loss at Kingsburg on March 15.

Immanuel (6-3) has a chance to grab sole possession of first place when it hosts Exeter (9-1, 1-0) in a 6:30 p.m. start on Thursday, March 21. The Eagles and Monarchs will play three times in conference (two at Immanuel) this season, but the final two games won’t be until the end of April.

Eagles coach Steve Ramirez credited the top of his lineup with producing the decisive rally in the sixth.

“They did what was expected when we needed them to step up in the sixth inning, and they did, one through five,” he said. “That’s a good team (Hanford West), well-coached, so we were hoping to stay close and it luckily bounced our way.”

Immanuel High’s Eli Garay delivers a game-tying RBI during the sixth inning of the Eagles’ 4-2 comeback victory over Hanford West High in a Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division baseball matchup on March 18. The senior catcher went 3-for-3 with a home run and two singles, and Immanuel (6-3) rallied for the win with three runs in the sixth inning. (Jon Earnest)

Senior outfielder Aiden Vossler started the rally by grounding a single to center, and infielder SJ Ramirez followed with a towering double to right as Vossler advanced to third base. Senior catcher Eli Garay, who finished 3-for-3 with a solo home run in the first inning, then lashed a game-tying single to center off Huskies starting pitcher Alex Orozco.

Hanford West changed pitchers following an intentional walk to Zabe Gonzalez, bringing on Landon Silva to face top hitter Nic Coleman. The senior lofted a towering fly to medium right field, deep enough to score SJ Ramirez with the go-ahead run. The play set off a bizarre chain of events that resulted in Gonzalez being doubled off first, but not after Garay raced around to score an insurance run.

That was all pitcher Ryan Hoenig needed to finish off the victory. The senior righthander relieved starter Cole Padgett in the second inning, allowing one run on four hits the rest of the way. After an error in the seventh brought the tying run to the plate, he retired Sam Sandoval on a flyout to right and pinch-hitter Tallan Atteberry on a called third strike to end the game.

“Our bats came alive when we needed it and we got clutch pitching,” Coach Ramirez said. “Obviously, Ryan came in and did a good job of closing the door.”

After Garay’s first-inning homer, Hanford West (5-6, 1-1) tied the game with the assistance of walks from Eagles starter Padgett. The Huskies took the lead in the fourth inning capitalizing on a single, balk and successful safety squeeze bunt. But from that point on, Hoenig shut down HW on just one hit and a walk the final three innings.

Steve Ramirez said his team has performed well through the early part of the season.

“We’ve had some injuries, but overall I’m pleased,” he said. “Our league is very baseball-oriented so they’re very good on both sides of the ball. I think this is the beginning of these 4-2 games, I think a lot of them are going to be close.”

Starting next week, the Eagles help host the Selma Invitational with Selma High. Their first game will be at The Yard at 4 p.m. Monday, March 25 against Golden Valley High of  Bakersfield. At 7 p.m. that evening, Immanuel hosts Washington Union before taking on Madera South at 7 p.m. March 26 and Yosemite at 1 p.m. March 27.

Jon Earnest