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PREP BASEBALL: Gamble pays off for Vista Murrieta

03/04/2013, 2:21pm PST
By By MARK E. STRODER For The Californian

MURRIETA ---- The safe play would have been to hold back, hold the batter to a single and keep the potential tying run from advancing further than second base.

MURRIETA ---- The safe play would have been to hold back, hold the batter to a single and keep the potential tying run from advancing further than second base.

Instead, Vista Murrieta left fielder Neil Erickson decided to gamble.

"I knew I had to get on my horse and catch this for my team," Erickson said. "I had to make a decision, and I picked the right one."

Erickson's full-out diving catch off the bat of Shane Gonzales in the top of the sixth inning was the pivotal play in the Broncos' 3-1 victory over visiting Great Oak Tuesday.

The Broncos (14-7, 8-2) moved into a first place tie with the Wolfpack (16-6, 8-2) in the Southwestern League. The teams will meet for the final time Thursday at Great Oak.

With a runner on first and one out, Gonzales drove a ball off Vista Murrieta starter Tyler Russell (9-2) that appeared destined to drop safely into left-center field.

Erickson moved quickly to his left before sprawling like a receiver trying to catch a football. If he had missed, the ball could have rolled to the fence, which probably would have tied the game and advanced Gonzales to third base.

"It was a do-or-die play, but once I laid out for it, I knew I had it," said Erickson.

Five days ago, the Wolfpack had a two-game lead in the league. They've scored just three runs in their two losses.

"They're making good plays in the outfield," said Great Oak catcher Matt Winkenweder, who had two of his team's five hits. "Shane hit one to left, and (Erickson) made a laying out, diving play that could have changed the game."

Great Oak carried a 1-0 lead into the fifth on the strength of a fourth-inning sacrifice fly from Zach Jemiola. Wolfpack starter Angelo Lingos (6-1) was working on a no-hitter.

But a walk and a bloop single by Jeff Moberg placed runners on first and third with one out. Lingos fired two quick strikes on the outside corner to Vista Murrieta center fielder Joven Afenir.

Afenir then fought off an inside fastball and hit a dunker into right-center to tie the score.

"I knew they were going to try to jam me because they would think that I'm looking for a pitch outside," said Afenir. "I pulled my hands in and got my bat on it at least."

Moberg and Afenir then pulled off a double steal on a busted hit-and-run play.Moberg later scored on a wild pitch and Afenir scored on Tyler Rausa's sacrifice fly to left.

Moberg pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, including two strikeouts, to earn the save.

Moberg, who had verbally committed to Cal State Fullerton last year, signed a letter of intent last week to attend Tennessee. He is joining former Titans coaches Dave Serrano and Dave Bergeron. Serrano is the Volunteers head coach, and Bergeron is the assistant head coach.

"I felt comfortable with Serrano and Bergeron when I went to visit them in Tennessee," Moberg said. "I really liked it out there, and want to be a part of their program."

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