Incline baseball | Highlanders clinch playoff berth with clutch wins
Final Northern Division III standings
1. North Tahoe 12-2*
2. Battle Mountain 11-3*
3. Yerington 11-3*
4. Incline 8-6*
5. Pershing County 7-7
6. West Wendover 4-10
7. White Pine 2-12
8. Silver Stage 1-13
* Clinched playoff berth.
The Incline baseball team, which had fallen to fifth place in the standings after seven consecutive losses, looked to be in trouble entering the final league doubleheader at first-place Battle Mountain on Saturday.
The Highlanders picked a good time to get back in the win column. They upset Battle Mountain twice, 12-7 and 10-6, to steal the fourth and final playoff seed from Pershing County, which dropped two against North Tahoe on Saturday.
When the dust settled, North Tahoe (12-2) overtook Battle Mountain (11-3) for the top seed in the Northern Division III regional championship tournament. Yerington (11-3) is the No. 3 seed and Incline, which improved to 8-6, is the No. 4 seed. Pershing County wound up the odd team out, at 7-7.
Incline will now face North Tahoe in the opening round of the regional tournament in Lovelock on Friday at 9 a.m. Battle Mountain and Yerington square off on the other side of the bracket at 11:30 a.m. The tournament, which continues Saturday, is double elimination, with the top two teams advancing to state.
Junior pitcher Jack Clouthier started Game 1 at Battle Mountain and earned the win with a gutsy complete-game effort.
The right-hander gave up four runs in the first inning, another two in the third and one in the fourth, then held the Longhorns scoreless over the final three innings to preserve the Highlanders’ lead. Clouthier gave up five hits while walking seven and striking out seven. He worked around five errors.
Incline gained the lead with a seven-run outburst in the third inning. They added on with a run in the fourth, another in the fifth and two more in the seventh.
The Highlanders had 11 hits in the game, with Clouthier going 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs, and Kenny Savelieff driving in three runs with a double. Tommy Thompson went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI, Owen Graffis was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Masxsimo Battel contributed a double and RBI, and Tommy Dolan and Alex Barnard each had a hit.
After North Tahoe beat Pershing County in their first game, the Highlanders’ playoff hopes were alive.
They responded by scoring another 10 runs against the Longhorns in the nightcap. The game was tightly contested, with Incline jumping out to a 1-0 led in the first inning, Battle Mountain tying the score in the second, and Incline taking a 3-1 lead in the third.
The Longhorns plated a run in the fourth to pull to within a run, but the Highlanders answered with another in the fifth, then six more in the sixth for a 10-2 lead. The hosts made things interesting with a four-run bottom of the sixth, but Incline held them off the board in the seventh to escape with the win and the fourth playoff seed after North Tahoe completed its sweep at Pershing County.
Dolan picked up the win, limiting the Longhorns to just two runs on one hit, despite 12 walks. He struck out five. Battel pitched three innings in relief, recording six strikeouts while giving up four runs (three earned) on one hit and four walks.
Incline had 12 hits. Dolan helped his cause with a 4-for-4 game with two doubles, a home run and three RBIs. The blast was Dolan’s seventh of the season, while his three RBIs pushed his season total to 30 and his four hits upped his average to a team-leading .517.
Clouthier went 3-for-3 with three doubles and an RBI, Battel was 2-for-4 with two RBIs, and Thompson contributed a double and RBI. Owen Graffis added two hits.
Thompson finished the regular season hitting .449, with a team-high 12 doubles and 33 RBIs. Clouthier will enter the postseason hitting .464 with four home runs, while Battel is hitting a shade under .400, at .397.