There was magic in the air at Blair Field on Tuesday night, and Poly junior pitcher Chris Castellanos managed to grab all of it. Facing Wilson ace Chase DeJong, Castellanos turned in a perfect game, retiring all 21 Bruins batters in order in a 1-0 Poly victory.
“This is the most excited I’ve ever been in my entire life,” said Castellanos after the game. Moments prior, he’d signed a game ball for the umpires to put in their union office. There have been some quality pitchers in Poly’s history, but neither Jim George (c/o 68, two national championships at USC and a career with the A’s) nor James McDonald (c/o ’02, All-CIF and All-State, currently with the Pirates) can lay claim to a perfect game. To have done it against a quality team like Wilson makes it that much more historic—it will require some research, but it’s unlikely a Poly pitcher has ever thrown a perfect game against the Bruins.
“Chris pitched his heart out and he deserves all the credit,” said DeJong after the game. “He made every pitch he could tonight—he was perfect.”
“He put it all together,” said Poly coach Toby Hess. “He had all three pitches working. When he does that, he’s tough to hit. He was really pitching tonight, he was carving people up.”
The game flew by until the fourth inning, as both Castellanos and DeJong held their opponents hitless in the first three frames. Castellanos, as usual, did it with well-placed pitches and a lot of ground balls (the first five Wilson outs), while DeJong blew people away, striking out seven of the first nine Poly batters.
In the top of the fourth, Poly’s Frankie Rios put a hard-hit single up the middle to get on, and stole second. Catcher Matt Maccarrone’s throw to second base was on time, and Tim Richards appeared to make the tag. But Rios dodged it, moving into scoring position. Jeff Turley hit a sharp single through the right side, scoring Rios for the game’s only run.
DeJong didn’t allow another runner past first base, striking out five. But the way Castellanos and his defense were able to make every play was the story of the night. He helped himself out by climbing the ladder for a high ball to end the third inning, and his teammates made some great plays as well. Turley ran down a deep fly ball to end the fourth inning, and third baseman Peter Fierros’ first out of the seventh inning raised blood pressures in the Poly dugout.
Tim Richards hit the ball hard to third, and Fierros couldn’t make the play cleanly, but was able to knock the ball down. He scooped it up and winged it to first base just in time, as Brock Meckelborg stretched to get the ball for the out. Then Britt Barmeyer, pinch hitting for Ryan Emma, hit a ball to second baseman Julian Griego, who made the play. Finally, Brett Harper (the team’s normal leadoff man, entering for the first time as a pitch hitter) grounded out to Fierros, and Poly’s whole roster ran out to mob Castellanos.
The crafty junior struck out five, got 13 Bruins to ground out, and only allowed three balls out of the infield. The last out recalled a moment last year against Cabrillo, when Castellanos had a perfect game through six innings and two outs, before walking the final batter on four balls. “I was more comfortable this year,” he said. “I’d never been in that situation before last year. Coach Claybough, our pitching coach, told me to just attack the last out like a lead out. I had nothing to lose.”
To their credit, most of the Wilson fans stood and applauded Castellanos as his team celebrated, showing great sportsmanship in recognizing a great performance by an opponent, even as the defeat moved them into third place in the league.
The win puts Poly (17-3, 5-1) into good position as the top team chasing Lakewood, who are undefeated in league. Poly will play the Lancers next Tuesday at Blair Field.
DeJong came out with the hard-luck loss for the third time this year, giving up four hits and striking out twelve in a 1-0 loss. That’s his exact line from a 1-0 loss to Lakewood, as well. It’s the third straight 1-0 defeat for the Bruins, who haven’t scored a run in 23 innings. Wilson (14-6, 4-2) now need to win out and hope Poly can beat Lakewood, or that Millikan can upset either the Lancers or Jackrabbits. Their next game is Friday, at home on their campus field against Cabrillo at 3:15pm.