“This one was for Sladen:” Walk-off home run pulls Warriors past LA Harbor

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Elena Perez

Warriors utility player Logan Young reaches home and ties the score at 1 versus the LA Harbor Seahawks Tuesday, April 23, at Warrior Field. Warriors right-handed pitcher Spencer Long was at bat, and his shot into center field gave Young enough time to score. Photo credit: Elena Perez

In their first game since starting catcher Sladen Mohl was killed in a traffic collision, the El Camino Warriors pushed past the LA Harbor Seahawks in a ninth-inning comeback Tuesday, April 23.

During the fourth inning, an Isaiah Bumgarner single into center field sent Eric Alamillo to home plate, giving LA Harbor the 1-0 lead.

Heading late into the game, the El Camino Warriors still trailed the LA Harbor Seahawks.

But in the bottom of the eighth inning, Warriors utility player Logan Young set the foundation for a comeback. With two balls, two strikes and no outs, Young drilled a double into left-center field.

“Going into the box, I was just trying to hit something, get on base any way I could,” Young said. “And when [the double] happened, I couldn’t help but look up and thank [Sladen]. It was all for him.”

A pitching change was made by LA Harbor immediately following, but by that point, the Warriors had already started to take control of the game.

Seahawks pitcher Jake McKenna walked Warriors first basemen Spencer Palmer. With Young already at second base, Warriors outfielder Joseph Borges hit a straight shot into center field.

The ball was caught for the first out of the inning, but its hang time was long enough for Young to advance to third base.

Warriors infielder and right-handed pitcher Spencer Long came up to bat and sent another shot into center field. What looked like a routine out ended up being anything but.

The ball popped in and out of the center fielder’s glove and Young was able to reach home and tie the game 1-1.

In the top of the ninth inning, Warriors right-handed pitcher Aaron Orozco gave up a single to Seahawks infielder Ruben Markham. Taking a generous lead off first base, Markham was checked by Orozco twice.

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Warriors right-handed pitcher Aaron Orozco pitches against the LA Harbor on Monday, April 22, at Warrior Field. He allowed one run and struck out eight batters. Photo credit: Mona Lisa Chavez

The Warriors completed a double play on Seahawks outfielder Jacob Northup’s at-bat, and a pop up into right field from pitcher Drake Pingle helped the Warriors end the inning and hold the score at 1-1.

In the bottom of the ninth inning and with one out, Warriors infielder Taishi Nakawake stepped up to the plate looking for any kind of hit.

“Just get on base,” Nakawake said of his mindset going in. “Get it to the next guy.”

There would never be a next guy. Nakawake’s bat crunched the ball, sending it into left field.

The ball flew high, and only after it sailed past the outfield wall was it officially confirmed to those in attendance: Nakawake homered deep into left field and won the game for the Warriors. The final score was 2-1.

“It’s crazy. It’s a blessing,” Young said about Nakawake’s walk-off game winner. “Words can’t even explain, honestly. We know [Sladen’s] here.”

Warriors assistant coach Grant Palmer described the mentality the Warriors kept heading deep into the game with the score knotted at one.

“We just kept plugging and doing what we do, and we knew the time would come eventually,” Palmer said. “Did I think Taishi would hit a home run in the ninth? No. But it happened, and we’re pretty pumped.”

The Warriors described their feelings about what it meant to come out and play just days after losing Mohl.

“We all knew what we were playing for. We didn’t have to say it,” said Young. “We treat each other like family as is, but now we have a bond that can’t be broken.”

Just the day before on Monday, April 22, a memorial in Mohl’s honor took place at Warrior Field.

“It’s been a really emotional week,” Palmer said. “Having a game like this, to come from behind in such crazy fashion, I think it’s only fitting from what happened.”

The Warriors improved their regular season record to 30-6 and are now on a four-game winning streak.

Warriors catcher Brendon Casillas said the win was huge and felt as if Sladen was with the team.

“This one was for Sladen,” Nakawake said. “That’s it. Nothing else. Nothing more.”

Mohl’s family was in attendance but declined to speak with any press at the game.

The last two games of the Warriors’ regular season are against LA Harbor as well and Orozco was confident in the abilities of the Warriors in those rematches.

“We’re all going to be bulldogs,” Orozco said. “I’m telling you right now: We are not going to lose, not one game, to them.”

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The El Camino Warriors celebrate around home plate following Warriors infielder Taishi Nakawake's walk-off home run versus the LA Harbor Seahawks on Tuesday, April 23. The Warriors tied the game in the bottom of the eighth inning, and won the game just an inning later. Photo credit: Devyn Smith