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Pirates steal a win against Merced
With no way his team could lose and the game on the line, coach Jake Kiser gambled and won, bringing home a thrilling one-run victory in extra innings for Porterville College baseball against the Merced College Blue Devils.
With daylight running out late Thursday afternoon and the score even at 1-1, the umps announced the bottom of the 14th inning would be the last played before a tie was declared due to darkness at the unlit Porterville Stadium.
There had been no scoring since Merced tied the game in the top of the fifth, gaining their only run on a four-pitch walk issued by Johnny Sanchez. Sanchez came into the game to relieve Sophomore Dakota Kirkman after the first out in the fourth. Kirkman started the fourth by inducing a ground ball to shortstop Christian Hamett for the first out, but then plunked the next two batters to put men on first and second before Kiser went to the bullpen. Sanchez walked the first man he faced to load the bases, then almost threw the ball away before giving up the RBI walk.
The Pirates had already scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second after sophomore infielder James Lopez singled up the middle then moved to second on another shot up the middle off the bat of freshman outfielder Bryce Telfer. Frosh outfielder Rory French got the RBI when he lifted a shot over the Devils’ left fielder to bring in Lopez from second.
The Devils threatened in the third, putting runners on first and second with the first of five batters hit by pitch on the day and a walk by Kirkman, but a quick throw by sophomore catcher Andrew Lopez from behind home plate gunned down the runner as he tried to steal second during a play that put a Blue Devil in scoring position on third. The Pirates got out of the inning on a high fly hung up to right field.
Andrew Lopez shot down a second steal attempt in the top of the sixth, and did it again in the top of the next inning for the hat trick after a bad hop bounced a ground ball over the head of Hamett at short.
Merced threatened again in the top of the eighth, moving a man to third on a bunt and a sacrifice fly, but the Pirates got out of the jam with a fly ball to French in left field. Merced put another runner on third in the ninth when the runner turned a single into a double on a bad throw to first with one out. A 380-foot sacrifice fly put the runner on third, and Sanchez fell behind 0-2 to the next batter before bringing the count to full and inducing a ground ball for the out on a close play at first that had the Merced couch out to protest the call.
Merced had the bases loaded in the 10th with one out, but freshman pitcher Tyler Czech got a strike out on the eighth pitch of the series for the second out, then induced the pop-up to Hamett to close the inning.
The Pirates then loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, but failed to convert.
Telfer saved at least a double for PC with a shoe-top catch in the 11th, and the Pirates again loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, this time with no one out, but again couldn’t score.
Two and a half quick innings took the game to the bottom of the 14th, with the sun sinking low in the west, and the home plate umpire announced the game’s final half inning.
PC’s first batter hit a fly out to right field, but Czech helped his own cause with a drive to left field for a single. A fielder’s choice on a drive by Dylan Watson for the second out advanced Czech to second before he was replaced by pinch runner Anthony Estrada after a walk from Telfer.
Estrada advanced to third on a passed ball by the Merced pitcher, and on a full count, French took a fourth ball to load the bases with two outs.
Australian import James Bingaman was at bat for PC, working himself into a full count when Kiser, with no way he could lose but a win still a possibility, made the call, asking Estrada to steal home on a high pitch. The gamble paid off, as the tag was late and the Pirate squad poured onto the field to dog-pile the speedster.
“I just told him to go,” Kiser said. “It was exciting if nothing else.”
PC had two runs on 13 hits and a pair errors; Merced put up one run on six hits and a costly error.
Hamett was 2-for-6 with two singles, James Lopez was 3-for-6 with three singles; Zach Johnson was 1-for-4 with a double; Telfer was 3-for-6 with three singles and a run; French was 2-for-6 with an RBI double; Mitchel Villarreal was 1-for-5 with a single; and Kyle Verdegaal was 1-for-4 with a single.
Czech had the win for PC, and Ryan McDaniel was the loser for Merced.