By Rick Assad
A towering and highly effective pitching performance by Connor Cafferty who yielded five hits along with receiving eight walks propelled host Providence High to a 7-2 decision over St. Monica Prep in a CIF Southern Section Division VI wild-card playoff game Wednesday afternoon at Ralph Foy Park’s Schafer Field.
“That was a nice win for us. We’ve been trying to play the game right, and hope things turn out well for us,” Providence coach Mando Contreras said. “The boys earned that win and I’m happy for the program and this team.”
Cafferty’s outing that included three strikeouts and no walks across seven frames was impressive as was junior Nikoli Ocampo’s and sophomore Eric Chuchvara’s two hits and one run batted in for each along and sophomore Adrian Contreras’ two-run single.
“Connor has been so consistent with his mindset and game plan this year,” Contreras said. “He’s made some good adjustments throughout the season with coach [Nathaniel] Albers and they’re paying off.”
Contreras likes how Cafferty, a senior, has pitched better as the season progressed.
“He was a bit off balance at the beginning of the season and now he’s found some good rhythm to throw any pitch he wants at any time of the count,” he said. “He’s a great competitor and he showed it today by throwing 90 pitches in seven innings.”
Cafferty was perfect in the first inning, fifth and seventh when he saw Jimmy Lincoln line to right field in the initial frame and Nick Wisot ground to second base and Shane Florez fly to center field.
In the fifth, Gabe Villegas grounded hard to shortstop Contreras, who turned in a spectacular defensive play and Lincoln popped to shortstop and Wisot bounced to second base.
The final inning saw Tyree Lewis ground out to second base and Cafferty fanned the last two hitters looking, including Campbell for the second out.
If one inning helped Providence’s cause, it was the first as the Pioneers (11-11 and 6-6 for third place in the Prep League) scored three runs despite not getting a hit while nine batters trotted to the plate.
The inning began with Ocampo being walked by hard-throwing Wisot.
Contreras lifted a high fly to center field, but sophomore Sutton Frost walked, and Cafferty fanned looking.
The next four batters all walked and they were senior Matthew Dorfman, senior Saxon Bilodeaux, who drove in a run, Chuchvara with an RBI and junior Garrett Barnes with an RBI.
Wisot gave way to Gabe Campbell, who doesn’t throw as hard but was in the strike zone for the most part. The final batter of the inning, junior Andrew Malong, fanned looking.
The Mariners (12-14 and 6-6 and third in the Camino Real League) finally were able to reach Cafferty who surrendered three hits in the third inning.
The key hit was an RBI single to center field by Wisot, who drove in Campbell, who led off with a single to right center.
St. Monica Prep then came within 3-2 with a run in the fourth inning on a leadoff homer to left center by Daniel Salcido.
In the bottom half of the fourth, the Pioneers made it 4-2 when Ocampo singled, raced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Contreras and went to third base on a wild pitch and scored on a throwing error.
Providence added a three-run fifth inning when eight hitters walked to the plate and saw Contreras wallop a single to left field that scored two runs. The first run of the frame came when Ocampo walked with the bases loaded.
Campbell went five and one-third innings for the Mariners while striking out five and walking two with seven hits allowed.
Dorfman singled in the sixth inning for the Pioneers, dashed to second base on a wild pitch and took third on a passed ball, but was left stranded.