First things first
There was simply no doubt Bear River came ready to play ball Friday afternoon.
Facing a must-win situation to assure themselves of the Pioneer Valley League baseball co-championship, the Bruins responded with a 17-0 blowout at home against rival Colfax to close out the regular season.
Tyler French pitched two-hit ball and struck out 13 during five innings as Bear River improved to 21-1 overall and finished with an 11-l league record, good for first place with Oakmont. Since the two teams split their two regular season meetings, a coin flip will determine the league’s No. 1 seed into the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III Tournament. The coin flip will most likely be held Monday, according to coach Mike Viola.
Viola had no doubts about the Bruins coming to this game ready to play.
“When we got out of practice yesterday, I could tell,” he said. “That’s the good thing about having a senior-dominated team. They know what to do and they came out here today to win a championship.”
Bear River broke the game open by scoring 11 runs in the third inning. The Bruins sent 14 batters to the plate, collected six hits, four of which went for extra bases, including a grand slam home run by French.
Everyone got in on the act, as all nine Bear River starters contributed hits, RBIs and runs scored.
“When you’re getting success one through nine in the order at this level … if we can do that in the playoffs, we should be OK,” Viola said. “One through 12 on our team … they all got in the game and they all made something happen.”
From the top of the order, Matt Miraldi hit 1-for-3 with one RBI and three runs scored; Ryan Giacomini 1-for-1 with one RBI and three runs scored; Robby Alcombrack 2-for-3 with a double and four RBIs (one run driven home in each of his four at-bats); A.J. Nunez 1-for-2 with a double and one RBI; French 1-for-3 with a home run and four RBIs; Matt Hilton 1-for-3 with one RBI; John Mobley 1-for-3 with a triple and one RBI; Brynn Beck 1-for-1 with a double and one RBI; and Steve Sitter 2-for-2 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.
The damage might have been even more extensive except Colfax center fielder Richie Lara made a nice running catch of a drive into the gap by French for the first out. Lara also caught a drive at the fence as Sitter had to settle for a sacrifice fly in the second.
“Our No. 9 hitter (Sitter), he hits a two-strike pitch into the gap for a sacrifice fly,” Viola said. “When you can get that type of hitting from the nine spot, you’re in good shape.”
Later, French came up with the bases loaded and drove the first pitch he saw over the right field fence.
As it turned out, the Bruins only needed one run to support the pitching performance French gave. The senior left-hander struck out 13 of the 18 batters he faced and allowed only three base runners – Mike Olsen singled in the first inning, Nick Stenner was hit by a pitch in the third and Kyle Wheat singled in the fourth.
French struck out the last six batters he faced in the fourth and fifth innings to nail down a win that improved his season record to 10-0. Nonetheless, there’s only one record he keeps track on.
“We’re 21-1 as a team. That’s the important one,” French said. “We have an awesome team.”
A team that wants to go far in the playoffs.
“Section championship, that’s definitely our goal,” French said, flashing a wide grin.
To contact sports editor Dave Price, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4240.
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