Timely Tigers complete sweep
Some timely defense and pitching helped the Douglas High baseball team stay even with North Valleys on Tuesday. And then Blake Murray’s two-out RBI base hit in the bottom of the seventh lifted the Tigers to a 3-2 walk-off victory in game two of a Northern 4A double header.
Gage Hoyle pitched two scoreless innings in relief, aided by a rally-ending double play in the top of the seventh inning, as Douglas (2-2 conference, 4-5 overall) completed a sweep of the twin-bill and climbed into the playoff picture.
Douglas posted a 14-2 triumph in game one on a cold afternoon that brought occasional rain showers to Tiger Field.
Though still early in the season, there is no doubt about the importance of these wins if you ask coach Don Amaral.
“We’re in this thing (playoff race),” Amaral told the Tigers afterward. “You played D and you executed. You made a couple of mistakes, but you came back.”
It was a significant difference from one week before, when the Tigers experienced lapses with their pitching and defense and lost two games against McQueen — 15-10 and 18-1.
Jayden Foster, Zach Romero and Hoyle combined to pitch two-hit ball in game two. Foster started and departed at the start of the fourth inning after feeling pain in his elbow (he stayed in the game to hit and played left field). Amaral gave credit the performances of Romero (two innings) and Hoyle in relief. Hoyle was credited with his second win of the season.
“That was a tough situation when Romero came in, after Jayden got hurt,” Amaral said. “And then the sophomore (Hoyle) came in … and he dealed.”
North Valleys (1-3, 1-5) took a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the sixth inning before the Tigers began their comeback.
Ayden Murphy lined a single into left field to lead off the home half of the sixth. Pinch runner Maverick Duffy advanced on a passed ball, took third on a fielder’s choice and scored the tying run on a wild pitch. The Tigers were poised to take the lead after freshman Matthew Goff hit a one-out double down the left field line to put runners on second and third, however, North Valleys starter Daniel Sieverin pitched out of the jam on back-to-back ground outs.
The Panthers threatened to regain the lead in the top of the seventh when they put two runners aboard with one out and the top of their order coming up. Hoyle induced a ground ball to senior second baseman Sean Dunkelman, who collaborated with sophomore shortstop Camden Brown and Goff at first base to complete the inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
Douglas carried that momentum over to the bottom half of the inning. Andrew Rangel led off with an infield single and advanced to second on Brown’s sacrifice bunt. Foster was issued an intentional walk and Rangel was thrown out at third on a fielder’s choice play. Murray wasted no time with two outs, though, as he drove a first-pitch curveball from Aman Bassi and into the right-center field gap for the walk-off.
Sieverin pitched 5.1 innings of seven-hit ball for North Valleys, although three of those hits came from the first five batters he faced to start the game. The right-hander finished with seven strikeouts.
North Valleys had taken a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning when Kobe Grassi was hit by a pitch, advanced when Breyden Beumont’s sacrifice bunt was misplayed for an error and scored on Clay Parry’s sacrifice fly to center field.
“That’s a good team,” Amaral said of the Panthers. “They beat Galena last week, so these were very important.”
In game one, the Tigers scored seven runs in the fourth inning to support Rangel’s complete game pitching performance. The game was called after five innings due to the mercy rule.
Dunkelman singled two runs home and Murphy hit a two-run double to highlight the Tigers’ fifth inning rally. Rangel and Foster doubled to spark a three-run first inning.
Rangel pitched a six-hitter over five innings and his infield closed out the game when Murphy, Dunkelman and Goff combined to turn a ground ball 5-4-3 double play.