It became clear in the fifth inning that Friday’s game belonged to Matt Gilbertson.
It was then, right after his Green Valley teammates gave him a three-run lead, the senior righty struck out the first two hitters and developed the kind of swagger seen in a pitcher who knows he has his game.
Gilbertson went the distance, allowing just two hits and striking out six, to lift the Green Valley baseball team to a 7-2 victory over host Coronado.
“Against a team like Coronado, we don’t like them very much,” Gilbertson said. “So to throw a complete game is always nice.”
There was no question Gilbertson would get the chance to finish what he started. He threw 13 pitches or fewer in an inning four times, and went into the seventh having thrown 76 pitches.
He struck out two in the seventh, and finished with 92 pitches, 64 for strikes, using his fastball to challenge hitters inside and set up the curveball.
“He pitched exactly the way we always expect him to pitch,” Green Valley coach Corey Gehlken said. “He’s a great strike thrower, he works down in the zone and he’s one of our best guys for a reason.”
At the plate, the Gators (22-5, 17-1 Class 4A Sunrise League) patiently waited out Coronado starter Boston Mabeus. The Cougars’ southpaw allowed two runs in the top of the first, then settled in and struck out seven on the day. But because Green Valley managed six walks off him and forced 98 pitches, his day only lasted 4⅓ innings.
The Gators tagged Mabeus for three runs, and poured it on the bullpen. With a 3-2 lead and two outs in the fifth, left fielder Austin Primack tripled home two more to give Gilbertson and and the Gators some breathing room.
“If you get to (Mabeus), you better get to him early, because if you don’t it’s lights out,” Gehlken said. “When they changed pitchers, our guys did a great job of getting an opportunity and making it work.”
Matt Uran doubled for the Gators, and A.J. Amelburu had two runs and three stolen bases. Garrett Nelson had three RBIs for Green Valley.
Zach Hose doubled and scored for the Cougars (16-11, 11-7).
Coupled with Rancho’s win over Basic on Friday, the Gators need just a win or a Rams’ loss next week to clinch the Sunrise League’s top seed. And as luck would have it, Green Valley hosts the Rams on Monday.
“If you have an opportunity to win something, you always want to do it,” Gehlken said. “We got Rancho on Monday, and that will seal it or keep them alive, depending on how we do.”