At the time, Danny Chavez’s words rang true. College of San Mateo’s ace right-hander was winding down after pitching an absolute gem in Saturday’s NorCal JUCO regional playoff opener against Cabrillo. And, he was anticipating his fellow Bulldogs’ staffers would follow suit.
“We have the top pitching staff in the state, and I think we’re going to show it in this tournament,” Chavez said.
After a glitch in Game 2 – Cabrillo knocked out CSM team strikeout leader Clay Bauer in the second inning en route to a 14-3 win – the Bulldogs pitching staff backed up Chavez’s talk. In the decisive Game 3 of the best-of-three tourney, sophomore left-hander Clint Terry emerged to lead CSM to a series victory. Terry, the California JUCO leader in ERA with a 0.78 mark, allowed just one run over eight innings as the Bulldogs rallied to a 3-1 win to advance to their fourth consecutive Northern California Super Regional.
Still, it was Chavez’s effort in Game 1 that stands out as the piece de resistance. Although the CSM bats rallied in the middle innings to stake Chavez to a 10-1 win, the sophomore locked up with Cabrillo starter Shane Carle early on. The game was scoreless until the fifth inning, when CSM freshman Brandon DeFazio crushed a grand slam to put the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat.
Chavez overcame a shaky start to cruise though the afternoon, though. Through the first inning, the right-hander seemed anxious and unable to find a groove. He allowed an infield single and a walk in the first inning, then got winged with a line drive off the bat of Eric Vegas to start the second. From that point on, Chavez dominated, going the distance while allowing just one run on three hits, while throwing just 85 pitches in the game.
“He wanted to finish it,” CSM manager Doug Williams said. “He was under 90 pitches, and he can definitely handle that work load.”
In two years at CSM, Chavez has posted a 13-5 record, including a 7-3 mark this year. His 1.22 ERA currently ranks seventh in the state. And, he owns the most playoff experience of anyone on the Bulldogs’ staff, after posting a 1-1 record in two postseason starts last year.
With the 6-foot-3 right-hander committed to San Jose State, Chavez is intent on finishing his CSM career in style. And, one of the major style points for not just Chavez, but for the entire Bulldogs’ pitching staff, is the stoic manner with which they carry themselves in the limelight of victory.
After the decisive Game 3 win, Terry was so intent on not patting himself on the back, it was almost self-deprecating. Despite any postgame celebration with the team, Terry maintained his game-face come press time. When asked how he felt about the big win, he merely offered a nonchalant: “Pretty good.”
“We just got to go out there and do our thing,” Terry said. “You’ve just got to keep your cool.”
Chavez was similarly reserved. While Williams commented that his ace was amped up and overthrowing in the first inning, Chavez said this wasn’t the case. He said he had no trouble sleeping the night before, getting a sound 12 hours as he generally does previous to a start. He said he felt fine taking the mound, and that it simply took him until the second inning to settle in with all his pitches.
“I know it was a big game, but I didn’t really look at it like that,” Chavez said.
The only emotional glitch Chavez admitted to was his reaction to the comebacker that nearly smoked him to start the second inning. The hot liner came back through the box chest high, but Chavez was able to get his glove up to deflect it. And, while it got his heart racing, the aftermath surprisingly didn’t even warrant a visit from the trainer to check if he was OK.
And evidently, Chavez isn’t only bulletproof. He proved blessed as well, as after he deflected the hot shot, it bounded right to CSM second baseman Mike Kathan, who in turn gunned on the run to first to turn the averted disaster into an out.