Branham Falls to Leigh in Tough Loss

By Jeff Powers

With its ace on the mound against its archrival, the Branham baseball team had reason to be confident Tuesday, April 24. But visiting Leigh broke through early and held on for a 5-1 victory in a battle at the top of the Blossom Valley Athletic League Mount Hamilton “A” Division standings.

Junior Alex Zarate took the mound for the Bruins, but the strong contender for all-league awards was on top of his game. Zarate, who lives, eats and breathes the sport of baseball, allowed three runs in the second inning as the Longhorns jumped out to an early 3-0 lead.

Senior first baseman Phillip Garcia (3-for-4, 2 runs scored) led off the second with a ground-rule double over the right-field fence. After a hit batsman and a bloop single loaded the bases, a solid line-drive single by Nick Mello produced the first run of the game.

The Branham ace then walked Brandon Lariz to force in a run and allowed another single by Paul Hall to make it 3-0.

That proved to be more than enough for Leigh’s number two starter, junior Spencer Mace, who came out with an aggressive mindset of attack early and attack often. Mace set the tone early, retiring the Bruins on just 10 pitches in the first inning and finishing with six strong innings to earn the victory.

Garcia ignited another rally in the third inning with a double to right-center. The Longhorns tacked on two runs in yet another long inning to take a 5-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third.

“Going through those long innings where the other team seems to have no end in their streak can take a lot out of you, and that’s what it did,” Branham senior outfielder Nate Delia said. “It drained us, physically and mentally. We dug ourselves too deep and really didn’t have a way to get out of the hole.”

The Bruins pushed across a run in the third when junior shortstop Ryan Williams singled home junior catcher John Ahrens to make it 5-1.

Leigh made it two in a row over Branham with a 4-1 victory Thursday to bump the Bruins (10-6, 7-5) into fourth place, two games behind first place Westmont (11-5, 9-3). The Longhorns (9-6, 8-4) are now tied for second with Willow Glen (9-6, 8-4) in the race atop the Mount Hamilton standings.