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by Dylan Allen

With two outs and the tying run standing on second base in the top of the ninth inning, reliever Drew Aguiar honed in on the glove of catcher Owen Firestone. 

Standing in the box was the Menlo Park Legends’ JP Avila who was the hottest hitter on the team – two home runs in his previous five at-bats. But for Aguiar, none of that mattered.  

“It’s all tunnel vision. I don’t look at the hitter at all. I’m looking at the sign, the glove and that’s it,” Aguiar said. “I have no idea who’s hitting each time.” 

After throwing four fastballs to make it a 2-2 count, Aguiar reared back and fired in a slider to Avila, crossing him up for strike three and securing the 5-4 win for the Walnut Creek Crawdads. 

With the two-game series sweep over Menlo Park, the Crawdads win streak is now at six games and they are 3.5 games above the Legends for first place in the CCL North with a 13-5 league record. 

The starting pitcher for the Crawdads, Jaxon Byrd, had a phenomenal day. He threw six shutout innings and had a career-high seven strikeouts. He’s the second Crawdad in just three days to go six or more shutout innings, as starting pitcher Carson Jasa went seven shutout innings on Thursday.

“Going up there having that dog mentality. And knowing that you’re going to get the job done and having that confidence in yourself,” Byrd said. “When you got that, it’s going to be tough for someone to beat you.”

For the Legends, starting pitcher Matthew McConnell went 6 ⅔ innings and only gave up one run prior to the seventh inning on an attempted double play that turned into a collision at second base.

McConnell matched Byrd’s strikeout tally and the game was still sitting at 1-0 in a fiery pitchers’ duel to end the sixth inning.

With Byrd coming out after six innings of work, reliever Cal Johnson came in to attempt to hold the lead. But Johnson allowed a lead off double to start things off and never really found his footing from there, facing seven batters and allowing four hits to make it a 4-1 game. 

Now down three runs after holding a lead for two-thirds of the game, the Crawdads needed a spark. 

Leading things off in the bottom of the seventh was DeFazio, who happened to be their lone run of the day. 

With a ground ball to deep second base, DeFazio was able to reach second after a throwing error on the play. Firestone then poked a single into left field, and all of a sudden the lineup turned over with no outs and runners on the corners. 

After a passed ball, Firestone reached second and outfielder Mark Wolbert brought in DeFazio on a sacrifice fly to make it a 4-2 game.

With Firestone still on second, first baseman Cole Kosciusko hammered a ball through the right side to make it a 4-3 game. Kosciusko would reach second on the throw home, and then would reach third on a throwing error. All of a sudden, the tying run was on third for the Crawdads cleanup hitter Isaiah Walker.

McConnell came out of the game and in relief was a submarine thrower, Dawson Radik. With two outs and a 2-2 count, Walker ripped a line drive into right field to tie the game up at four runs apiece. He would then advance on a hit and score on a passed ball, and the Crawdads rally gave them a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh. 

Aguiar came in to start the eighth, only allowing one hit and striking out two. He recorded the save as well.

“It’s just one pitch at a time. If I miss a pitch, they’re going to take advantage,” Aguiar said. “So I was just trying to locate and touch the glove every time.”

The Crawdads are now 4-1 against the Menlo Park Legends and will play them twice more in July. 

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