North Tahoe baseball | Lakers defeat Highlanders in first-round playoff series
TAHOE VISTA, Calif. and#8212; Like a diesel engine, the Lakers just needed some time to warm up Friday and#8212; in both games.
Hosting playoff baseball for the first time in nearly a decade, North Tahoe battled back twice from early deficits to sweep a best-of-three Northern 2A series from rival Incline, 12-4 and 9-5, in front of a sizeable crowd at North Tahoe Regional Park.
Both of North Tahoeand#8217;s starting pitchers were sharp, as junior Colin Spencer pitched the Lakers to victory in the opener and senior Brendon Arnold earned the win in the finale, both with complete-game efforts. Each recorded 13 strikeouts and allowed only five hits, while their offense picked them up in the middle innings of both contests.
and#8220;I thought we played great,and#8221; said first-year North Tahoe head coach Matt Drury, whose team entered the series as a No. 4 seed. and#8220;We got down in both games, but we stayed in it and came back. Colin threw an excellent first game, spotting his pitches well, and Brendon had kind of a tight zone but he kept his head in it and did a great job. Iand#8217;m proud of the way we played.and#8221;
While disappointed with the outcome, Incline head coach Jeff Clouthier said he, too, was pleased with his teamand#8217;s effort.
and#8220;Iand#8217;m proud of them. They battled until the end,and#8221; he said. and#8220;North Tahoe just ended up being the better team today.and#8221;
The Highlanders, which entered as the No. 5 seed, took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning of Game 1 with a solo blast by freshman Tommy Dolan that disappeared into the trees beyond the left-field fence. Incline then extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth when Andrew Carlson drew a bases-loaded walk, scoring Cam Powell after he singled to lead off the inning, and Chip Bouchard scored on a dropped third strike.
After being held in check by Incline starter Kyle Clouthier through three innings, North Tahoeand#8217;s offense caught fire in the bottom of the fourth.
The Lakers chased Clouthier with a four-run uprising, using a smashed double off the fence by Spencer, singles by Arnold, Mitchell Myers and Shane Christian, a hit batter, a textbook suicide squeeze by Mychal Paschal, and a walk to Alex Tyler to take a 4-3 lead.
Patrick Murray relieved Clouthier and promptly ran into bad luck. An infield hit by Wildon DesLauriers scored two runs after the ball got away from Dolan at first. Following a strikeout and a walk, a pickoff attempt at first got away again and scored another run. Connor Altick drove in the eighth run of the inning with a rip between third baseman Tommy Thompson and Bouchard at short.
With Spencer settled in on the mound, the Lakers extended their lead to 9-3 in the fifth when Christian doubled and scored on base hit by Conner Lewis. They added three more in the sixth when Christian walked with the bases loaded and Lewis drove in two with another hit.
Incline threatened in the seventh, loading the bases on a walk, a base hit by Davis Bedient, a beanball that flipped the helmet off of Powelland#8217;s head, and a walk to Dolan. But Spencer ended the free rally by fanning Murray to strike out the side.
and#8220;It took us a couple innings to get going, but once we did, we hit the ball well and did what we needed to do to get the win,and#8221; Drury said.
The Lakers managed 13 hits, with Arnold, Christian, DesLauriers and Myers finishing with two apiece, and DesLauriers and Lucas Likes with two RBIs each. For Incline, Bobby Thoms, Bedient, Powell, Bouchard and Dolan contributed a hit apiece. Dolanand#8217;s homer was his 10th of his season.
Unfortunately for the Highlanders, Bouchard, the third batter in their lineup, jammed a finger while diving back to first and was unable to play the second game.
and#8220;That hurt us, taking a big bat out of the middle of the lineup,and#8221; said coach Clouthier, adding that Bouchard would have been the first reliever in Game 2.
The Highlanders again drew first blood in the second game.
In the first inning, Powell reached base on an opposite-field single before stealing second and scoring on a hit by Dolan, who started on the mound and struck out the side in the bottom of the first to preserve the 1-0 lead.
In the second, however, Myers turned on a high fastball that shot off his bat and sailed over the fence in left field, giving the freshman his first high school home run while knotting the score at 1-1. Myers couldnand#8217;t hide a smile as he high-fived Drury around third and was welcomed at home by teammates.
and#8220;I was impressed with Mitchelland#8217;s home run,and#8221; Drury said of the blast.
The Lakers created their own trouble in the third, which allowed Incline to regain a 4-1 lead. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Arnold walked Thoms and Powell before Dolan came through with his second RBI of the game to help his cause.
Murray followed by drawing another walk before Carlson struck out swinging. But the ball hit the dirt, and Spencer fired a low ball that Lewis couldnand#8217;t handle at first, which brought in two more runs for free to extend Inclineand#8217;s lead to 4-1.
The teams battled back and forth the next two innings, as North Tahoe responded with two runs in the bottom of the third, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Altick and an Incline error to cut the lead to 4-3, while the Highlanders added a run in the fourth on an RBI by Thoms to adjust the score to 5-3.
The Lakers surged ahead with a three-run fourth to knock Dolan out of the game. Spencer scorched a two-run double down the left-field line, Arnold drew a walk and Altick was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Freshman knuckleballer Jack Clouthier replaced Dolan and limited the damage. He coaxed a harmless fly ball, a sacrifice fly by Christian and a strikeout to end the inning.
But the Lakers had taken the lead, 6-5, and they werenand#8217;t about to let it slip away. They added two insurance runs in the fifth, using an RBI from Spencer and Arnold, who tripled, and one more in the sixth on a double by Tyler.
Arnold allowed a two-out single to Jack Clouthier in the seventh before striking out Murray swinging with a knuckleball of his own to end the game.
and#8220;We played excellent,and#8221; Spencer said, adding that the Lakers took extra batting practice before the games. and#8220;We kept our heads in it the whole time. They had the snowball effect going and#8230; but we limited the damage and kept our heads in it and got the wins.and#8221;
The Lakers scored their nine runs on only seven hits. Spencer led the way with a 2-for-4 game with a double, triple and three RBIs. Myers had the one RBI from his homer, Tyler had a double and RBI, DesLauriers had a double, and Arnold delivered an RBI with his triple. Altick and Christian each drove in a run, and Lewis contributed a hit.
Dolan drove in two runs on two hits for Incline as Thoms, who was shaken up when he took a fastball directly to the side of his helmet late in the second game, had the Highlandersand#8217; only other RBI. Kyle Clouthier had a double, and Powell and Jack Clouthier each had a single.
With the series win, the Lakers (19-7 overall) advanced to the Northern 2A Regional Tournament at Yerington on May 11-12. Incline ended the season 11-16 overall.
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Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy alumnus JC Schoonmaker had a career-best day in Ruka, Finland, racing to a seventh-place finish at last Friday’s World Cup sprint event.