The Clear Falls Knights refused to be rattled by their mistakes against a resilient Dickinson Gators squad Thursday at Clear Creek’s Mallory Field, and managed to hang on for an exciting 6-5 win.
“That was a team effort,” Clear Falls head coach Eddie Youngblood said. “We didn’t play perfect baseball. We made mistakes here, we made mistakes there, which is not typical of us. Our pitcher battled all night and didn’t get rattled with errors behind him.”
The victory puts Clear Falls (7-4 in District 24-6A) just one game back of first-place Dickinson (8-3) in the league standings, and the Knights will have a chance to pull even with the Gators when the two teams conclude their season series 7 p.m. today at Clear Falls.
With the score knotted 4-4, Knights catcher Leo Lopez, a mid-game replacement, smacked the go-ahead RBI single in the top of the fifth in what was his first at-bat of the game. With two outs in the inning, second baseman Jaden Horlacher got the rally started with a bloop single to shallow center field, and designated hitter Braydon Fisher followed that up with a single laced to left field.
Clear Falls added what turned out to be a vital insurance run in the top of the seventh in another two-out rally. Horlacher reached base on an error, and he eventually came around to score after a single by Fisher and a pair of wild pitches.
The Knights survived one final Gators rally, as well as a controversial no-call, in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Andrew Jimenez got things started for Dickinson with a single to left field, and he then advanced to second base on a bad relay throw and eventually took third on a wild pitch.
After a strikeout, it appeared Braxton Gerek, who shifted over from left to right field, made a spectacular diving grab to end the game. But, neither umpire got a clear view as to whether or not the ball may have come out of his glove, and they ruled the play an RBI single for Gators starting pitcher Brian Dawson.
A single up the middle by first baseman Kiko Nunez kept the rally going, but then relief pitcher Evan Lingo induced a groundout to end the game and record the save. Starting pitcher Tyler Zarella was solid in picking the win on the mound, throwing six innings with four hits, four runs (one earned), three walks and four strikeouts.
Clear Falls got on the scoreboard first on a two-out, two-run double smashed off the center field wall by third baseman Kaiden Beaty, scoring Gerek and center fielder Ian Clark, who both singled with two outs.
The Knights never trailed in the game, but Dickinson managed to tie the game twice after falling behind by two runs.
“Hats off to Dickinson; they don’t go away,” Youngblood said. “There’s a reason why they’re in first place right now. They’re a confident team.”
With two outs in the bottom of the second, Gators shortstop Landon Roque smacked a sharply-hit grounder to first that was not fielded cleanly, and third baseman Daniel Mosqueda (leadoff walk) came around to score and cut Clear Falls’ lead to 2-1.
In the bottom of the third, Dickinson tied the game, 2-2, on a well-executed hit-and-run with the big man Nunez (two-out walk) getting an excellent jump to score all the way from first base on an RBI double smoked to the center field wall by center fielder Kam Johnson.
Clear Falls went back ahead, 4-2, in the top of the fourth after first baseman Jonathan Pascale singled and Gerek doubled, and then both eventually scored on a wild pitch and an error on the pitcher.
Dickinson immediately responded in the bottom of the fourth, taking advantage of two Clear Falls errors to plate two runs and tie the game, 4-4.
Clear Falls escaped a spot of trouble in the bottom of the fifth when Dickinson left fielder Garrett Whitley and Dawson each reached base on errors to start the inning, but Zarella got a strikeout and then an impressive fly out-throw out double play from right fielder Graham Whittington to Beaty at third base to end the threat.
The Knights raked 10 hits in the game, led by Fisher (3-for-4) and Gerek (2-for-3, two runs).
Jimenez (2-for-4, one run) had a multi-hit game for Dickinson.
The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday at Dickinson, but the rain early in the week forced the game’s postponement and venue change.
The victory marked career win No. 200 for Youngblood.