Eastside Boys Show Flashes of Greatness in Nail-Biter Against Oak Hall


With the midpoint of the baseball season right around the corner, the Eastside boys (2-4) faced off against the Oak Hall Eagles (8-1) on Thursday in the Rams’ sixth match of the year. The Rams entered the game against Oak Hall looking to maintain their strong form following last week’s wins against Saint Francis and PK Yonge, while Oak Hall came in on a four-game win streak of their own. 


Though the game finished neck-and-neck, the first inning had Eastside fans wondering if high school baseball had a mercy rule; a slow start from pitcher Zachary Bargar coupled with a few errors from the Eastside outfield, saw the Eagles take a swift 3-0 lead by the end of the first. Eastside’s batting lineup also started cold, with no hits through the first two innings.

 It should be noted that Bargar pitched an exquisite game after this uncharacteristic first inning. “I started off pretty bad; I think I was trying to throw too hard. But then I figured ‘em out,” said Bargar when I saw him in the restroom during the fourth inning. His pitching night ended in the fourth inning after throwing 96 pitches and allowing just two more runs in total.

The Eastside team after winning this year’s preseason tournament

What happened next could only possibly be explained by an impromptu, Martin Luther King Jr. type speech from one of the Eastside coaches or captains, or perhaps steroids. After two walks and a successful bunt from junior Jason Osborne, the Rams found themselves at the top of their hitting lineup with the bases loaded. Eastside senior Miles Archer did not squander the opportunity, lining a grounder into left field to bring one runner home and put runners on first and third. After a walk from junior Thomas Shay and a stolen base from Archer, the bases were loaded once again, with slugger Frank Mercado up to bat. Mercado made his Eastside debut two weeks ago against St. Francis, in which he astounded Eastside fans by hitting two home runs. While he didn’t go yard this time, he did hit a grounder straight through the Oak Hall infield to send two more home, putting Eastside within one run of the Eagles. With two outs and runners on second and third, senior and captain Maui Schwartz crushed a ball to center field, putting two more points on the scoreboard and ending the inning 5-4 in favor of the Rams. 


At this point in the game, the fans in green were practically frothing at the mouth with euphoria. In the blink of an eye, Eastside turned a four-point deficit into a one-point lead, with the momentum certainly in their favor. Unfortunately, though, this game was far from over.


In contrast with the chaos of the third inning, the fourth and fifth were largely quiet. Oak Hall mounted a small scoring surge, but Schwartz batted home Thomas Shay to end the fifth down just two runs (6-8). 


Eastside’s third-inning heroics began to look in vain after the top of the sixth when the Eagles effortlessly extended their lead to four after an RBI and a run from Jackson Beach. Beach would end the night with three runs and three runs batted in on 2/4 hitting.


Incredibly enough, a half-inning of steals, errors, and masterful hitting found Eastside on top once again heading into the final period. A single from Bargar followed by a pair of stolen bases from him and Archer gave them prime position to be brought home on a single from Thomas Shay. Shay would end the night leading the Rams in runs, RBI, and walks. He also throws 90 as a pitcher, according to Schwartz.


After Shay scored on a stinging double from Mercado, the score was even at 10-10. Mercado would then get home on an error by the Eagles’ third baseman, putting the Rams up by one heading into the seventh and final inning.


After pitching for two innings, Eastside pitcher Miles Archer was replaced by third baseman Maui Schwartz. Eastside was just three outs from victory. Schwartz started well, forcing a pop fly from the first batter to put one out on the board. After a hit-by-pitch and a single, the Eagles had runners on second and third; Schwartz then fielded a ground ball and got the runner out at home to put Eastside just one out away from a win. On a highly, highly questionable ball four call from the umpire at the next at-bat, Schwartz turned a 3-2 count into a walk to load the bases for Oak Hall, still two outs. 


A day or two after this game took place, I watched USA play Japan in the World Baseball Classic finals, where the game was determined in fairytale fashion: top of the ninth, Japan clinging on to a one-run lead, two outs, the best two-way player in the world and Japanese star Shohei Ohtani faced off against teammate Mike Trout, who is widely considered the best hitter in baseball. Ohtani struck him out with two blistering fastballs and a snapping slider to clinch the championship for Japan. While watching, though, I couldn’t help but see Maui’s face in Ohtani’s and Jackson Beach’s in Trout’s; the similarity in situation was uncanny. 


Unfortunately, Maui failed to replicate Ohtani’s nerves of steel; after throwing two balls and one strike, Jackson Beach sniped a double into center field to get two runners home, giving Oak Hall a one-score lead. Oak Hall’s relieving pitcher made short work of Eastside’s hitters in the final inning, striking out two and forcing a ground out for the final play of the game.


 “I sold,” stated Schwartz after the game. “That call from the umpire was definitely a strike, but I still sold with the last hitter.”


Although they didn’t come out on top, this game was by no means a failure for the Rams. We saw real potential of what this team could turn into, with glimpses of an electric offense in the third and fifth innings and a stalwart defense in the second, third, and fourth innings. If this group can find a consistent stride in these areas, there is no doubt that they will be a real threat come playoff time.