The California Academy of Baseball team continued its dominant summer schedule by downing the Folsom Twisters 9-3 and 8-1 in a double-header matchup at El Dorado High on Saturday.
Featuring a lineup flush with strong batters, CAB had a combined 22 hits — 10 in the first game and 12 in the night-cap — while efficient performances from starting pitchers Lewis Merlo and Zack Terry hampered any hopes of a Twister rally.
CAB head coach Rusty McDonald and his staff have seen stellar play throughout the summer league, noting that the team has been playing at a level higher than even their strong spring conference play.
“Right now they’re playing really good baseball,” coach Sonny Merlo said. “They’re pitching well, playing good defense, hitting the ball well. They’re really putting it all together for this summer season.”
After two scoreless innings in the first game, CAB (23-4) engineered a powerful assault in the third inning — made possible via a Matt Smith three-run home run to centerfield. Smith, who served as designated hitter for both games, was on fire in the game one hitting 2-for-3 with back-to-back three run shots. His second homer, an opposite field blast in the fourth inning, was still climbing when it smashed the upper branches of the river oaks perched above the field.
“I was just looking to keep my focus and achieve my objective which was simply to make solid contact and bring in runs for the team,” Smith said. “The second one was a similar approach — staying focused and making solid contact with the ball. Our entire line-up has been amazing this season — from top to bottom we have guys who have been hitting really well.”
It was easy to see the merit of Smith’s comments about the line-up. Zach Culp went 2-for-4 with three runs and two singles, Adam Washabaugh went 2-for-2 with an RBI. Nick Bonniksen earned himself an RBI single while Ryan Rodriguez, Michael Weston and Vince Ross had hits.
On the mound, Terry worked through some command issues early on and found intelligent ways to create outs. Trusting his teammates defensive capabilities, Terry pitched for outs successfully through five innings, striking out five Twisters and walked two.
“I had some trouble out there,” Terry said. “But I knew that I had an incredible defense behind me and just went out to figure out a way to get those outs. With a defense like the one I have behind me – it’s easy to trust my teammates and pitch confidently. My fastball felt good today — I wasn’t able to pitch exactly as I’d like to, but we got it done.”
Game two was an echo of the first, as CAB’s 12 hits came from throughout the entire line-up. Rodruiguez hit his stride with a 2-for-4 performance in the box that included a pair of doubles and three RBIs. Washabaugh, Culp, Ross, Sawyer Schandt and Merlo all got hits while Aaron Farney and Christian Kern went 2-for-4 and 2-for-3 respectively.
Merlo got the nod to start the night-cap and made the most of it with a sparkly shutout performance. In six innings, he struck out six, gave up two hits and walked one.Merlo was relieved by Rodriguez in the seventh inning, who gave up one run before shutting the book on the day.
“I treat it the same as being a reliever,” Merlo said. “I go out there to do my job – get guys out and pitch with everything. This summer season is an advantage because when you get ready for spring season at school, you’ve already played with the guys and you know everyone – you skip that period of learning how to play together, feeling everyone out. It’s been really good for us as a team.”