Oxnard scores in bottom of 7th to nip Rio Mesa

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Oxnard High's Oscar Sandoval, right, is congratulated by teammate Matt Gutierrez after he scored the tying run, making the score 2-2, in the fourth inning of their game against Rio Mesa Tuesday at Oxnard. 3/15/11, Oxnard, CA © Rob Varela/The Star
With the game tied in the bottom of the seventh and the potential winning run stationed at first, Oxnard High’s Julian Ramon stepped to the plate and tried to think along with the coach.

No, not his coach. The Yellowjackets’ senior catcher has played travel ball extensively for Rio Mesa coach David Soliz.

“He’s knows me and I know him,” said Ramon. “I was thinking he’d throw me a curveball. So that’s what I was looking for. I was looking for the curve, and was ready to adjust to the fastball.”

He got the curve. Rio Mesa pitcher Casey Rodriguez started with a breaking ball, and Ramon slashed it over the head of center fielder Kyle Kemper, scoring Jeremy Alvarado all the way from first and earning the host Oxnard baseball team a dramatic, 3-2 victory in the Pacific View League opener on Tuesday.

Ramon’s hit was the big blow in a gritty pitching duel between a pair of left-handers.

Oxnard ace Jayson Balades yielded a run in the first inning on a bad-hop triple and an unearned run in the second on his own throwing error. Thereafter, he allowed just a pair of singles and a walk.

Balades finished with a four-hitter and 10 strikeouts.

Rio Mesa’s Rodriguez surrendered two unearned runs in the fifth and allowed seven hits with three strikeouts. He retired the first two batters in the seventh before yielding a single to Alvarado and the double to Ramon.

If anything, the verdict portends a tough league race.

Oxnard entered the game white-hot at 5-0, all in the prestigious Southern California Invitational. Rio Mesa was 1-4 before Tuesday’s game.

“We expect that kind of league,” said Ramon, who finished 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles. “Rio Mesa’s a good team, and they got us late last season with a couple of wins. But it’s still a big win for us.

“We keep the momentum going after doing so well in the (SoCal) tournament. We’ve got to be ready to play them (the Spartans) again on Friday.”

Rio Mesa’s Soliz liked his team’s tenacity in the league opener.

“We’ve played well this season, but haven’t got the results we’ve wanted,” he said. “The same thing today. We had the one tough inning, in the fifth, but otherwise played very well today. We’re going to go back to work Wednesday and get ready to play again on Friday.”

Oxnard’s Balades displayed his measure as Oxnard’s No. 1 starter this season.

He hadn’t given up an earned run in two starts this season, then a walk and a line-drive base hit to right by Daniel Lerman hit rough terrain in the outfield and turned into a triple.

The deficit grew to 2-0 in the second when he allowed a leadoff single to Alex Torres, and followed that by throwing a pickoff attempt down the first-base line that permitted Torres to race around the bases.

After that, Balades was in charge.

“I told everybody, ‘Just score the runs and I’ll hold them the rest of the way,’ ” said Balades, who improves to 3-0. “I have faith in my teammates. I know they’re going to hit, and I know they’re going to make plays behind me.”

Oxnard scored the tying runs in the bottom of the fifth on a couple of throwing errors and a two-run single by Joseph Romero.

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