In between a pitching duel at Skyline High Monday afternoon, Abe Yagi managed a way to break into the limelight with clutch hitting that proved to be the difference in the Eagles' 2-1 victory over the West Panthers.
With the game tied 1-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Ryan Clark, center fielder for the Eagles, singled. Following him was Yagi, who drove a ball over the Panthers' right fielder's head to the fence for an RBI double that proved to be the winning hit and run for the Eagles.
“West is a good team, and with this victory it gives us more confidence,” said Skyline head coach Erik Hansen. “People don’t realize what kind of team we have this year.”
Espinoza’s blazing fastball seemed to catch the end of the Eagles' bats all day as he went the distance in six full innings, giving up four hits, one earned run and one walk with four strikeouts.
Espinoza’s counterpart, Nielson, bested him on the day, pitching a complete game six hitter. Nielson gave up one run on four walks and a season-best nine strikeouts in the effort.
With such a low-scoring game, the biggest out of the game may have come in the top of the fourth inning for Skyline.
West had the bases loaded with two outs and Josh Brown at the plate. Nielson threw a wild pitch that evaded his catcher, Jake Vanamen, but Vanamen recovered quickly enough to throw back to a running Nielson at the plate to tag out the Panther base runner at the plate, ending the inning and leaving the score tied at 1-1.
Espinoza held Skyline hitless through four and a third innings.
The Eagles broke through with an RBI sacrifice fly by Vanamen to tie the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third after consecutive errors by West led the Eagles to move runners to second and third.
The Eagles finally broke through into the hit column with a Griffin Clayton base hit up the middle with one out in the bottom of the fifth.
West started the game blazing as the first four batters reached safely on two walks and two singles, one of which was an RBI single by shortstop Mason Abrath to lead 1-0. Nielson got out of his second bases-loaded jam in the game early on in the first as he recovered from a rough first few batters to strike out the following three batters.
“It was a pitchers’ duel. We got out of two bases-loaded jams, and had a clutch hit by Yagi,” Hansen said about his team's victory. “Bridger battled today, struggled with control early on, but he threw well after the first inning; I’m proud of his effort.”
Nielson’s location was a big part of his success in getting out of various jams and keeping the Panthers off balance with his effective off-speed pitches.
“A big part was mental focus today, I just had to throw strikes,” said Nielson. “I located my slider, and my fastball was there today.”