North Hall’s first-round baseball playoff series is going to Game 3.
After winning the opener, 8-1, on Wednesday and dropping the nightcap, 2-1, in the best-of-three series against Coahulla Creek at Jody Davis Field, the series comes down to a winner-takes-all game Thursday.
North Hall and Coahulla Creek will play to decide which school moves on to the second round to face Jefferson next week.
“At this point, the only thing we’re trying to do is win a series, so dwelling on anything that happened in that game is pointless for us,” North Hall coach Trevor Flow said. “They know what happened. I was proud of them for competing.
“It’s do or die. This is the playoffs. Really they should be chomping at the bit to get back out here tomorrow.”
Trojans starting pitcher Kelton Kieschnick controlled the first leg of the doubleheader. The right-hander pitched a one-run, two-hit complete game with four strikeouts and one walk. He recorded 16 first-pitch strikes, which created very few laborious innings. He faced the minimum in four of the seven innings.
The Colts scored their only run of the game in the fourth inning after Joey Estrada doubled home Donavon Sims, who reached base after he was hit by a pitch.
“Caleb Clark has been our number one this year, and he can’t pitch right now (arm soreness),” Flow said. “So for (Kieschnick) to step up and throw the ball like he did — that was extremely impressive. That was by far his best performance of the year at a time when we needed it.”
Before taking the field, Clark kissed Jack Wiley’s peculiar necklace — a chicken foot. The necklace has brought luck to the Trojans, Flow said, since winning the 2017 state championship.
“That’s the first time I’ve actually kissed it,” said Clark, who did not kiss the chicken foot before Game 2. “I’ll definitely kiss it before the next game.”
The superstition spelled true for the Trojans in the first game of the doubleheader, but the luck especially followed the liplocker, Clark, who went 3 for 3 with an intentional walk.
In Game 1, the Trojans leadoff man connected on a solo home run in the third inning. Once Coahulla Creek tied the game with a double in the fourth inning, Clark answered in the fifth inning with a two-out single, setting the stage for Tyler Brooks’ walk and Caleb Wiley’s two-run double.
The Trojans scored five two-out runs in the sixth to seal the victory and instill momentum for the nightcap.
The energy, however, fell short for the Trojans in Game 2 as Coahulla Creek pitcher Eli Turso’s powerful fastball and elusive off-speed pitches kept them off stride. In turn, the offense couldn’t muster up the quality at-bats and the production of the opener.
“In the second game we didn’t execute very well,” Clark said. “We popped up a squeeze, and our timing was off. (Coahulla Creek’s pitcher) had a little more velo and was kind of catching us off guard because he threw harder than the guy in the first game and kept us off balance with his slider.”
Clark finished the day going 5 for 6 at the plate.
“Normally a hitter like that you would hit in a three or a four hole, but I want him to get as many at-bats in a game because he is that spark plug,” Flow said. “He does a very good job of competing and putting the ball in play when he’s behind the count. For him, being able to roll the lineup over and get as many ABs and produce like that is a luxury for us.”
Flow hopes Clark and the rest of the team continue to take part in all of the superstitions available for Thursday’s must-win.
“We’ve got a chance to go to the sweet 16 for the seventh straight year, so chicken leg it up boys,” Flow said.