Behind 6 1-3 innings from Pierce, including nine strikeouts and seven hits allowed, North Valleys fended off a late comeback attempt by RHS to earn the split.
Facing a 5-1 deficit after four innings, the Raiders began to claw their way back in the top of the fifth as Joey Dice launched a leadoff solo home run over the left-field wall.
In the top half of the sixth frame, the Blue and Gold continued to crawl out of the hole.
Following a leadoff single through the right side of the infield by Brandon Koszuth, Reed catcher Dylan Miller dug into the batter’s box and sent a two-run shot sailing deep over the left-center field wall, cutting the margin to 5-4. Unfortunately for the Raiders, that is where their rally abruptly ended.
After giving up the homer to Miller, Hunter settled in and struck out a pair. Alec Leighton then walked to keep the inning alive before stealing second and advancing to third on an errant throw. With the tying run standing 90 feet away, Hunter got out of the jam with yet another strikeout.
Reed (9-6, 5-5) tried yet again to push the tying run across home in the top of the seventh, but fell just short.
After Hunter opened the inning with another ‘K,’ Tyler Starley drew a walk to end the day for the NVHS southpaw. Ian Flanary then came on in relief for the Panthers, striking out the next batter. With Starley standing on second following a steal, Reed’s last chance dissolved away as Flanary sent the Raiders down swinging for the final out.
“Their lefty threw good,” Reed coach John Phenix said of Hunter. “He had us off balance. We had some terrible at-bats I thought in some situations and he got himself out of some situations. On top of that, they put some good hits together.”
To start the game, the Panthers jumped on Reed early.
In the first inning Jacob Heisler led off with a double, followed by a bunt single from Mauricio Varela-Hernandez. A fielder’s choice off the bat of Kody Milligan then plated the first run of the game. A passed ball later in the inning then plated Milligan to give NVHS a 2-0 edge.
In the fourth inning, the Panthers strung five hits together combined with a Reed error and walk to tally three more, pushing their advantage to 5-0.
“I think they were just sitting on fastball,” Phenix said of the Panthers approach at the plate. “We couldn’t get ahead with it, and then we had to come back with it so they sat on it. The first inning kind of dictated the flow of the game. We don’t get an out on the bunt, don’t turn the double play and they get two runs off of it. It was kind of the attitude the whole rest of the game.”
Austin May took the loss for the Raiders, pitching 3 2-3 innings with three strikeouts and five runs, three earned. Kevin Koszuth pitched 1 2-3 innings, while Mark Nowaczewski tallied the final two-thirds of an innings of work with a pair of strikeouts.
At the dish, Miller led the Reed effort going 2-for-3, including a double and a home run with three RBI. Brandon Koszuth went 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
The Raiders will now open a series at Carson Thursday. First pitch is set for 3:45 p.m.
“I want to see a little more spunk,” Phenix said of the Raiders’ series with the Senators. “We have Carson in two big games. They’re huge for us right now. Dropping this one hurts. We have a game at their ballpark and then at Aces ballpark and we have to try to win those two.
“We have to be more aggressive. We just didn’t put the ball in play. We took some hellacious, ugly looking swings on strike threes and took some called thirds, too. You have to put the ball in play. Especially when we have a runner in scoring position twice, you have to put it in play.”