By John Murphy
KINGSBURG — The outcome of the Kingsburg High baseball game came down to one dramatic play.
Kingsburg stunned first-place Central Valley Christian 4-3 on Friday in a Central Sequoia League game that was very much in doubt when Seth Costi stepped to the plate in the seventh inning.
The Vikings trailed 3-2 and had runners on second and third base with two outs. Costi sent a Noah Flores delivery into the gap between right and center field for a single, scoring one run to tie the game and sending teammate Ben Coito flying around third base, heading for the plate and the possible winning run.
Coito angled himself toward the inside of the plate as he slid in while Connor Paden blocked his path. The umpire singled safe as Coito raised a cloud of dust and Paden wound up on the ground shaken from Coito sliding into him (Paden was fine after being examined by Kingsburg trainer Victoria Lam).
The excitement wasn’t finished. Viking players celebrated, Cavalier coach Graham Harrison questioned the plate umpire about the call and at least one assistant coach from each team tangled verbally with each other before the teams separated.
“He was out,” Harrison said. “He never got to the plate, but it didn’t come down to one call. Even if he’s out, they still have a chance to win. That wasn’t the reason we lost.”
Kingsburg coach Michael Garza saw the pivotal play differently.
“It was a bang-bang play,” Garza said. “He slid. I thought (Paden) was a little far out and I thought (Coito) had to go around him. He did a good job – Ben avoided the contact as best as he could and got in there.”
The player that set the play in motion was Costi, who dropped the ball nicely into the outfield.
“I was for sure looking at it,” Costi said. “I was kind of in shock. It was my first (walkoff hit) ever. It felt amazing.”
Costi said his only concern was whether Coito was safe at home – something the plate umpire confirmed, much to the displeasure of Cavalier fans, at least one of whom boisterously let the ump know about it.
The result was an important victory for Kingburg (13-8 overall and 4-4 in league, as of the game’s conclusion). Heading into this week, Kingsburg was 2 ½ games behind CVC (18-4, 7-2), with Selma (16-5, 6-3) in second place.
“We played bad defense and we didn’t capitalize offensively,” Harrison said. “We left guys on the bases that should have gotten in and that’s baseball; it happens. We’re still in first place and if we take care of business, we’ll be CSL champions.”
It was a huge victory for Garza, a first-year coach.
“I am very happy with the boys,” he said. “The bats didn’t come alive until the end, but when we get going, we get going.”
Tied 2-2 after five innings, CVC nudged ahead on a run-scoring single by Jack Reitsma in the sixth. Relief pitcher Riley Walls had issued a one-out walk to Trenton Vanderveen, then balked him to second.
Costi had two hits and the two big RBIs for Kingsburg. Coito, batting ninth, went 3-for-3.
Walls got the win on the mound, in relief of Riley Cooper who pitched five innings and allowed five hits, while striking out five and walking nobody.