Starting pitcher Logan Ready had his most impressive start of the season for McNary, but the offense fell silent when it mattered most against Central Catholic High School on Thursday.
The 2-1 nine-inning defeat was the seventh loss in a row for the Celtics (4-10, 0-1), and the third one-run loss in the last five games.
“In a tight ball game obviously just one little thing one way or another makes a difference and that’s kind of what happened,” McNary head coach Larry Keeker said. “They had a couple key hits in the ninth, we had some opportunities in the seventh and eighth. Just couldn’t quite get it done.”
Central Catholic pieced together some small ball in the top of the ninth with a leadoff single from Jaden Howlett after Hayden Kaiser was unable to dig a low throw out of the dirt at first base. A sacrifice bunt sent Howlett to second, and a single from Jesse Palafox-Arceo put runners on the corners. Shane Honish’s bloop single to shallow center field brought in Howlett with the eventual winning run.
McNary’s best opportunity to win it in extras came in the eighth inning. Anthony Cepeda singled with one out and promptly stole second. After a pop-up for the second out of the inning, Kaiser came to the plate. Kaiser had singled in the lone run for McNary back in the first inning.
“My coach told me to be that guy and that was my mindset,” Kaiser said. “I was confident from my previous hits because I knew I had been barreling everything up.”
But Central Catholic wasn’t going to give Kaiser a chance to repeat with the winning run on second. They intentionally walked Kaiser, leaving him feeling “kind of robbed.”
The move proved to be the correct one for Central Catholic, as Ben Allen grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the game.
“Tell you what, that was a good baseball game,” Keeker said. “That was a good team, really proud of our guys. We’re just trying to continue to battle. We’ve had some really tough losses this year.”
Adding to the sting of the tough loss was Ready’s stellar outing being wasted. He struck out eight in 7.2 innings, allowing only one run and two hits. But in the eighth inning he hit the 110 pitch limit and Keeker was forced to make a change on the mound.
“You’re taking a pretty good baseball team right to the wire, he’s not coming out unless he reaches his pitch count,” Keeker said. “He threw a gem.”
Keeker called it Ready’s best performance of the season, praising the command he showed of both his fastball and slider.
Ready looked good from the start, putting the Rams down in order and notching his first two strikeouts of the day in the first inning.
“Felt good, really loose,” Ready said. “I was able to command everything which is nice, I haven’t been able to do that lately so it was good being able to get back in it a little bit.”
The only real trouble for Ready came in the third inning. Central Catholic’s Thomas Ferroggiaro got on with a two-out triple and scored two batters later on Howlett’s RBI single.
Despite the 113 pitches thrown, Ready said his arm felt good, just a little tired.
McNary had an injury scare in the fifth inning after Jordan Araiza slid into second attempting to break up a double play. He stayed down on the dirt clutching at his lower leg briefly before being checked on and limping off the field. But the freshman was back in the field after missing only one inning.
This was the final non-league game for McNary. For Keeker, entering league play is like a new season, and gives them a chance to turn things around.
“We’re just trying to play consistent baseball,” Keeker said. “I know this team will get it going. If you were to gauge it on wins and losses it doesn’t look that great, it is what it is. But we’re owning that, we’re OK with it.”
Logan Ready delivers a pitch in the top of the third inning Thursday, April 14, against Central Catholic. Ready struck out eight Rams in 7.2 innings pitched. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)
McNary’s Hayden Kaiser singles in a run in the bottom of the first inning against Central Catholic on Thursday, April 14, at McNary. Kaiser brought in the only run scored by the Celtics in the 2-1 loss. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)
Second baseman Trevor Ratliff gathers to throw to first against Central Catholic on Thursday, April 14, at McNary. (KEIZERTIMES/Joshua Manes)