“That’s why we preach play seven innings,” Reed coach Ray Charles said. “We had a couple breaks go our way. Their pitcher was pitching a great game and there was a mishap and he had to come out of the game. We just battled their pitcher and we got a couple hits and couple walks and an error. Next thing you know, we had the lead. We just battled. It probably wasn’t the prettiest game, but we just need to find a way to win and that’s what we did today.”
The Raiders and Panthers clashed in a duel on the mound that saw both teams’ pitchers mow down batters. North Valleys senior Paul VanEmmerik and Reed’s combination of junior Chris Flores and senior Jake Means went toe-to-toe as offense was scarce for both squads.
Through six innings the Panthers held a 1-0 advantage over the east Sparks school with VanEmmerik giving up just one hit. Unluckily for North Valleys, VanEmmerik was forced to leave the game after being hit by a pitch in the bill of his batting helmet. With VanEmmerik out of the game and no longer dominating from the bump, the Raiders took advantage of the pitching change.
Clinging to its last three outs, Reed started its comeback rally. Junior Casey Higgins got the rally going with a single and advanced to third on two wild pitches. A walk to senior Tanner Paris and a hit batsman for Butler flooded the base paths. Tittensor then stepped into the batter’s box and delivered for the Raiders, sending a hit through the right side of the North Valleys defense to plate Higgins and Paris and hand Reed its first lead of the day at 2-1.
The Raiders were not done scoring. With runners on the corners, senior Chuck Stroberg laced a single into center field for another run before a balk plated the last Reed run of the game, resulting in the 4-1 final. Means retired the side in the bottom of the seventh to cap off the comeback.
“We knew we were down and we needed to figure out how to push one across and tie it and go from there,” Charles said. “Fortunately we did more than that. You have to give their pitcher credit. Their lefty didn’t have any walks. He threw strikes and he had a little curveball working. He kept us off balance and then he came out of the game and it gave us an opportunity to get some runs.”
Neither team managed to have an impact on the scoreboard until the bottom of the third inning. After Flores retired the first two batters of the frame, a single from junior Mauricio Varela sparked the Panthers. Standing on second base following a passed ball, Varela then rounded the sacs for the first run of the game on a double off the bat of sophomore Kody Miligan, leaving the hosts with a 1-0 edge.
Reed attempted to recoup the run its next trip to the dish in the top of the fourth. With two outs and sophomore Joey Dice on first after a free pass, senior Spencer Jones sent a shot over the head of the Panthers’ left fielder. Unfortunately for those in Raider Nation, the ball took one hop and bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double, holding Dice at third when he would have easily scored had the ball stayed in play. VanEmmerik escaped the danger immediately afterward with a strikeout to end the inning.
Still down by a run, Reed again tried to break through against VanEmmerik in the top of the sixth frame. Two Panther errors put seniors Butler and Tittensor on second and first. After a sac bunt and pop out, North Valleys intentionally walked Jones to load the bases, but VanEmmerik induced a ground out to end the Raider threat before the dramatic seventh.
Flores went four innings with two strikeouts with a hit batter and five hits allowed. Means earned the win with three strikeouts and two hits against in three innings of relief.
“I thought our pitching did an outstanding job,” Charles said. “Chris kept us in the game and Jake came in and shut the door. We gave up one run in the game. I think our pitching has been solid all year. Our bats are not always on, so hopefully we can get our bats going. Good things happen when we swing the bat because our pitching is going to keep us in the game, so I’m excited about that.”
Reed (12-10, 7-8 Northern 4A) will try to complete the series sweep of North Valleys and reach the .500 mark when the two teams meet again at Reed on Tuesday at 3:45 p.m.