Knights break out in big game at Yucaipa; Hernandez takes win personal
By Harvey M. Kahn

Rialto High finally rid itself of an old baseball nemesis by defeating Yucaipa 19-5 in a crucial Citrus Belt League road game on Friday. The win also lifted a four-year burden off the shoulders of Eric Hernandez.

Yucaipa (14-5, 6-2) had owned Rialto by winning seven consecutive games over four seasons against the Knights (13-6, 6-2).

Hernandez picked up the win and improved to 6-1 by limiting the usually heavy hitting T-Birds to six hits in five innings of work. Abel Osuna pitched the final two innings of scoreless relief.

"I came right at them with fastballs and curves. Nothing off speed," said Hernandez, a two time first team all-CBL performer, who is moving up the ranks with the best ever at Rialto High.

Rialto second baseman Xavier De La Cruz, who bats cleanup, helped start the barrage with run-scoring singles in the first and second innings, aiding to a 7-1 lead after three innings. De La Cruz drove in another two runs in a Rialto seven-run, fifth inning to help increase the lead to 15-5.

The Knights scored in all seven innings and totaled 18 hits. They were assisted by 12 Yucaipa errors, six walks and four wild pitches. "We got a few runs here and a few more runs there, and before you knew it, we started to add them up. I told the team to keep playing and forget about the score. We've lost every way you can against Yucaipa," said Rialto coach Daren Espinoza.

Being on the varsity for four-years, Hernandez is the only Knights' player who has lost to the T-Birds in every game during the streak. "I wanted to beat Yucaipa once," said Hernandez, who has been the losing pitcher four times against Yucaipa. Overall, Hernandez is 17-10 with a 3.75 ERA in four years at Rialto.

From his demeanor on the mound and later in center field, Hernandez seemed to enter the Yucaipa city limits with an attitude.

"I think we lost to them 16-2 once last year. Now they know how it feels," said Hernandez, who while playing center field in the sixth inning, robbed Yucaipa's Brock Alexander of a possible home run with a back hand catch at the fence. Hernandez will play next season at Riverside Community College for coach Dennis Rogers.

In addition, Hernandez has put up some impressive numbers at the plate in his four years at Rialto. He has totaled 125 hits, 12 home runs and has maintained a cumulative .400 batting average. "He has been very special," said Espinoza.

Yucaipa coach Jeff Stout called Friday's 19-5 loss at home against Rialto, the worst of his 32-year coaching career.

"I've never had a team that committed 12 errors in a game. Rialto was dropping in hits everywhere. I've never had a game like that."

Yucaipa defeated the Knights 8-4 in the first round of CBL action, helped by all-CIF pick Matt Davidson's two home runs and five RBI. In Friday's Rialto win, Espinoza decided to intentionally walk Davidson three times. "I wasn't going to let him beat us. Let the other eight guys beat us, not him. Matt is the best hitter I've seen in ten years as head coach," said Espinoza.

The Knights knocked out Stanford University recruit Scott Snodgress with two outs in the third inning after Rialto had a 7-1 lead. Nick Martinez made the afternoon even more miserable for Yucaipa when he hit a line drive off the non pitching arm of T-Bird reliever Frankie Martin, who was forced to leave the game and go to a nearby emergency medical room.

Rialto catcher Hector Padilla went 4-for-6 and scored four times. De La Cruz finished by going 4-for-6 with four RBI’s.

Yucaipa made one push to make a game, when it scored four runs to draw within 8-5, but Hernandez ended the threat with two strikeouts and a ground out. Both teams have one game left with CBL leading Redlands East Valley, before league play ends next week. Rialto pinned the only league loss on REV.
Barring a major collapse, Rialto, Yucaipa, and REV are almost assured of post season playoff games.