McNary outfielder Griffen Hubbard prepares to slide into third with a triple (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
On their final day of the regular season, the McNary baseball team split their doubleheader with Summit and Mountain View. The Celtics defeated Summit in game one thanks to a walk-off single in extra innings by Zane Aicher, but fell to Mountain View 13-7 in game two.
In the first game, Summit took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to four straight singles, but the Celtics answered back in the bottom half of the frame on an RBI-single from Gunner Smedema, scoring Eben Mayer from second.
After Summit put up another run in the top of the second, McNary tied the game in the bottom half on an impressive two-out rally. Dante Olivo started the threat with a seeing-eye single to right field, which was followed by a walk from Mayer. Olivo came home on an RBI-single by Aicher while Mayer scored on an error to tie the score at 3-3.
McNary took their first lead the following inning on a bases-loaded walk from Olivo.
Olivo, who was the starting pitcher for McNary, didn’t have his best day on the bump, pitching 3.0+ innings and giving up seven hits and four runs. But his teammate, Hayden Kaiser, picked up the slack for him over the course of the next four frames as the big lefty gave up just three hits and no runs during his four-inning outing.
“Hayden has been a solid two or three inning guy for us, but today we got a little bit extra out of him,” Keeker said. “His ball was moving really well today, and that can make him tough to beat. Getting that deep in the game really helped us.”
McNary had multiple runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh frames, but couldn’t push one across as the game went into extra innings.
Keeker brought in Mayer, McNary’s best reliever, in the top of the eighth inning and the junior right-hander did not disappoint, retiring all nine batters he faced.
“Eben was a bulldog today. He has been a bulldog all year on the mound and he comes into messy situations a lot,” Keeker said. “He can throw his off-speed pitch in any count that he wants to, which makes him that much more effective.”
After being shut out for six straight innings, Keeker elected for freshman Trevor Ratliff to pinch-hit in the bottom of the 10th. The managerial move couldn’t have worked out better as Ratliff led off the frame with a double to left field.
“Trevor had a great at-bat. That double really sparked us,” Keeker said.
A sacrifice bunt by Noah Fischer brought the winning run to third base with one out. Mayer popped out to first base for the second out of the inning, which brought Aicher to the plate.
“I was looking middle-in and didn’t get it at first. Then he gave me middle-in on that third pitch and I was able to put it where I wanted to,” Aicher said.
Aicher pulled the 2-1 delivery to right field, which fell for a hit, scoring Ratliff from third and giving McNary the victory.
“It felt amazing. There is nothing better than that. I got up there a little nervous but I was able to get it done,” Aicher said. “It is so much fun when you touch first and then you see everyone coming out of the dugout. It was just a great feeling.”
Logan Ready started on the hill for game two against Mountain View. The Cougars got a run in the top of the first on a wild pitch, but the Celtics answered back in the bottom half on a two-run single by Cooper Cripe.
Ready, however, struggled mightily in the top of the second, giving up five hits and two free passes, which led to five Mountain View runs. He didn’t fare well in the top of the third either, giving up two singles and a walk before being replaced by Aaron Nease.
“Logan has really been fighting this year with his command. He will be fine and he will find his way in the summertime. For him, it’s about getting back to where he has the mental confidence in both of his pitches, and he will because he has proven that he can be lights out,” Keeker said. “He will bounce back.”
Trailing 11-2, the Celtics started to fight back in the bottom of the fourth. After back-to-back singles by Griffen Hubbard and Fischer, Mayer was hit by a pitch, which loaded up the bases. Hubbard would come in on a wild pitch and an RBI-single by Smedema got Fischer home from third. Kaiser would come through moments later with a sacrifice fly to right field to trim the deficit to 11-5.
“We battled. I wish we could have some of those at-bats back. We were close, we just couldn’t string enough together for a big rally,” Keeker said.
Mountain View extended their lead to 13-5 before McNary junior Nate Allen came to the hill with one out in the top of the fifth.
Even though it was his first outing with the varsity team, Allen proved that he belonged, throwing 2.2 innings without giving up a run or a hit.
“Nate had some success for us. He had a great opportunity today and took advantage of it,” Keeker said.
McNary finishes the season with an 11-8 record, winning three of their last four contests. Although it was an up and down season at times, the Celtics bring back the vast majority of their roster, which has Keeker looking forward to next season.
“If I look at the season as a whole, I am super proud and super happy with what I saw,” Keeker said. “We rallied together during the ups and downs and beat some good teams.”
Matt Rawlings: [email protected]