YOUNTVILLE — Through eight innings Garlind Webster was the only starter on the Fairfield Expos American Legion baseball team without a hit.
The first baseman turned closer made sure the San Mateo Post 82 Shockers got no hits in the ninth.
Using just a fastball and a curve, Webster struck out the side in the ninth and all four batter faced overall – all on called third strikes – to preserve a 12-7 Expos victory in loser’s bracket play in the State Tournament at Cleve Borman Field, Friday.
Cameron Michael and Carter Bins did the damage at the plate, the former going 4 for 5 with a two-run homer, two doubles and four RBIS, the latter going 3 for 4 with two doubles and five RBIs.
Thanks to a quirk in the bracket found only in American Legion baseball, the once-beaten Expos advance to play unbeaten Petaluma on Saturday at 3 p.m. They need to win that game and again on Sunday at noon and 3 p.m. to win the title. Chico and El Segundo play at noon, Saturday.
“We’re still here,” Fairfield manager Brad Hanson said. “That’s our mantra – we’re still here.”
The Expos made their statement early, getting a two-run double from Bins in the bottom of the first after Michael doubled with two outs and Webster followed with a walk.
With starter David Hostler mowing down the Shockers – he didn’t allow a base runner until the third or a hit until there were two outs in the fourth – the Expos expanded their lead on Michael’s booming two-run homer to the right of the flag pole in center field in the third.
“I was just looking for something to hit hard,” Michael said. “He (Shockers pitcher Matthew Seubert) left a fastball over the plate and I just put a good swing on it and put it out.”
The Expos expanded their lead to 6-0 when Jake Hedrick singled and later went all the way to third on a wild pickoff throw at first, then scored on Michael’s second double. Bins then crushed his second double, this one off the ivy on the fence in left center field, scoring Michael.
San Mateo finally got to Hostler in the sixth, loading the bases on an error and two walks with Hanson replacing his starter with a 3-0 count to Christian Conci.
Reliever Justin Lee finished the walk to Conci, forcing in a run, but got the next three batters out to escape with no further damage.
The Expos got the run back plus three more in the bottom of the sixth. Brasile doubled with one out, took third on a Jack Gamba single and scored on JP San Antonio forced Gamba at second.
Hedrick was hit by a pitch, Michael singled in San Antonio, Webster was also hit by a pitch and Bins singled in both Hedrick and Michael.
Needing just one run to end the game with the 10-run rule the Expos gave up three runs in both the seventh and eighth innings to let San Mateo make a game of it.
The Expos added two crucial runs, Gamba bunting home Anthony Kaleczyc in the seventh and Kaleczyc singling home bins in the eighth.
When the Shockers got three runs off San Antonio in the eighth, Hanson called on Webster, who’d faced a grand total of four batters over one inning the entire summer.
Not a problem. The right-hander needed a total of 15 pitches to strike out San Mateo’s final four batters of the game – all looking.
“I thought Garlind was exactly what we need to do the close the door,” Hanson said.
Without an array of pitches, just “fastball, curveball. Guess my curveball was working,” Webster said. “Guess when the curveball’s working it’s a pitcher’s best friend. It feels good to do the job. It was a big game, we needed to win it.”
Every game the rest of the way is big, starting with Saturday’s game with Petaluma.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.