Incline baseball | Highlanders take 2 of 3 from league leaders
Northern Division III standings
Team League Overall
x-1. Battle Mountain 15-3 21-6
x-2. Yerington 15-3 18-8
x-3. Incline 13-5 16-6
x-4. Pershing County 11-7 15-14
5. North Tahoe 5-13 6-15-2
6. West Wendover 3-15 4-18
7. Silver Stage 1-17 3-18
The third-seeded Highlanders will open the Northern Division III regional championships at Pershing County against second-seeded Yerington on Friday at 11:30 a.m. Top-seeded Battle Mountain and fourth-seeded Pershing County play Friday at 9 a.m. The winners meet the same day at 4:30 p.m. The tournament continues Saturday, with the top two teams advancing to the state championship in Las Vegas the following weekend.
The Longhorns breezed through their Northern Division III baseball schedule — until they ran into the Highlanders.
In a clash of playoff-bound teams, Incline took two of three from first-place Battle Mountain this past Friday and Saturday to secure the No. 3 seed in the regional championships.
The Highlanders used a late surge to defeat the Longhorns 19-9 in a back-and-forth series opener on Friday. After dropping the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, Incline bounced back to win the finale, 13-12, in walk-off fashion.
“That was good. We knew we could do that, we just had to go out and prove it,” Incline coach Jeff Clouthier said. “I’ve been telling the kids all year that they can beat any team, but I’m not sure they believed me until now.”
Incline, which finished the regular season at 13-5, will now square off against second-seeded Yerington (15-3) in the opening round of the double-elimination regional championship tournament at Pershing County on Friday. Top-seeded Battle Mountain (15-3) will face fourth-seeded Pershing County (11-7).
The tournament continues Saturday, with the top two teams advancing to the state championship in Las Vegas from May 14-16.
The Highlanders knew they’d have to score some runs to get past the Longhorns and their potent lineup. Incline’s offense was up to the task.
Incline scored at least one run in every inning of Friday’s opener, which featured three lead changes. Leading 12-9 after five innings, the Highlanders rallied for seven runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
The hosts flexed their muscles with eight extra-base hits, including a home run apiece by senior standouts Jack Clouthier and Tommy Thompson, who blasted a three-run opposite-field shot during the sixth-inning rally.
Incline had 14 hits, with Thompson going 2-for-4 with a double, homer and five RBIs, Clouthier going 3-for-3 with a double, homer and three RBIs, and Owen Graffis going 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. Alex Barnard drove in two runs with a double, Tristan Summers had two doubles and an RBI, Ben Snyder had two hits, and Cole Steinberg had one.
Clouthier started on the mound and earned the win, allowing nine runs on 13 hits in five innings, with nine strikeouts. He stayed in the game despite taking a line drive to his left wrist early in the contest. Thompson came in and struck out the side in the sixth.
The Longhorns tagged Summers with the loss in Game 1 Saturday, as they scored 11 runs (seven earned) in 4 2/3 innings. Summers had five strikeouts. Nicky Witty pitched the final 2 1/3, giving up a run on a hit and a walk, with two strikeouts.
Incline scored first and led 4-3 after three innings. But Battle Mountain scored five times in the fourth and three in fifth to take command.
Steinberg went 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, Summers was 2-for-3 with an RBI, and Snyder was 1-for-3 with two RBIs. Thompson doubled, and Graffis, Clouthier and Bryan Banuelos each had a hit.
Much like the opening game, the series finale was a barnburner. In the end Witty was the hero, as the senior drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh on a deep sacrifice fly that scored Steinberg. Before that, Banuelos raked a double that advanced Steinberg to third.
With Thompson on the mound, Battle Mountain scored a run in the first inning and another in the second for an early 3-0 lead. Incline knotted the score with a three-run bottom half of the second, but the Longhorns pulled ahead again with a six-run third.
The Highlanders began chipping away from there, as they scored two runs in the third, one in the fourth and three in the fifth to tie the game at 9-9. Incline added three more in the sixth only to watch the Longhorns tie the score for the third time in the game with three runs of their own in the top of the seventh.
Incline had 13 hits, highlighted by a long two-run home run by Snyder during Incline’s sixth-inning rally. Graffis went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two RBIs, Witty was 1-for-2 with two RBIs, Thompson was 2-for-4 with two doubles and an RBI, and Barnard and Summers both went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Banuelos and Steinberg each had one hit.
Thompson pitched all seven innings, allowing 12 runs on 14 hits, with five strikeouts.