ONE BAD INNING
The Heritage Huskies didn’t get on the scoreboard until the seventh and final inning but put up five runs during that exchange to turn a 3-0 Riverside lead in the 4-A playoffs opener into a 5-4 season-ending loss for the Pirates.
Heritage, a No. 4 seed, was an underdog to Riverside, the top seed from the PAC-6, which completed a 10-0 regular conference season.
Millbrook beat Northern 7-4 on Tuesday, leaving East Chapel Hill as the lone PAC-6 team in the playoffs.
In a lot of ways, Riverside literally gave it away.
Riverside senior pitcher Kory Behenna didn’t give up a hit until he surrendered a pair in the fifth. He gave up another one in the sixth but still had a shutout going in the seventh.
Behenna had it working, Heritage coach Tony Piercy said.
“He fooled us quite a bit early in the game,” Piercy said.
Behenna gave up two more hits in the seventh before Blake Morgan came on in relief with no outs and runners on first and second.
Morgan is one of Riverside’s best pitchers, Behenna said.
But Morgan struggled. After striking out the first batter he faced, Morgan gave up a single that loaded the bases for leadoff hitter Dylan Reget, who walked, allowing a Husky to finally cross the plate.
The Pirates thought that walk was a suspect call, but that’s baseball, Riverside coach Doug Simmons said.
“They wanted to blame the umpire for missing that call in the last inning,” Simmons said. “My thing was we didn’t do a good enough job of scoring runs when we had opportunities. We struck out too much ... Just not enough balls put in play. Not a good-enough approach at the plate was the bottom line.
“I don’t know if that strikeout would have won the game or not. It probably would have made our lives a little easier with two outs. But that’s part of the game. Umpires are human. It’s not the umpire’s fault when you lose, and we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror at what we did and what we’ve got control over — it’s how we swing the bat, how we play defense and how we pitch.”
Morgan hit a Husky to bring in another Heritage run and make it 3-2, Riverside.
Heritage kept hitting, running and scoring, including Justin Kunz’s double that drove in two runs and gave the Huskies the 5-3 lead.
“We practice a lot of the little thing every day,” Piercy said. “We talk every day about playing 21 outs. It doesn’t matter until that last out happens. We’ve done it all year, and the boys battled all night. They did just enough to make it happen and they believed. We’ve had four or five seventh-inning comebacks this year. It doesn’t matter if you’re in that spot. They just believe that as long as there’s an out on the board, you’ve got a chance to win a baseball game.”
Riverside catcher Micah Goodwin stepped to the plate and got the Pirates within a run of tying the game when he flied to left field and drove in Cory Crabtree.
But Heritage reliever Joe Procopio struck out Joe Wood to end Riverside’s season and bring to a close several high school careers.
“That was my last time pitching on that mound,” Behenna said. “A lot of memories on this mound. It’s kind of hard to leave it with a bitter taste in your mouth like that.
“It was everybody’s fault. We didn’t do the job at the plate the way we should have, but, I don’t know, I just kind of take responsibility in that last inning.”
PAC-6 coaches have said the league was down this season, but that’s not to say that Heritage outclassed Riverside, Simmons said. Maybe the pitching was down in the PAC-6, but Riverside has played good teams, he said.
“It wasn’t like we haven’t seen a curve ball before,” Simmons said.
HERITAGE 5, RIVERSIDE 4
Heritage 000 000 5 — 5 6 0
Riverside 011 001 1 — 4 11 1
BATTERIES — Heritage, Blake Walters (W), Joe Procopio (6th) and Justin Kunz. Riverside, Kory Behenna (L), Blake Morgan (7th) and Micah Goodwin.
LEADING HITTERS — Heritage, Kunz 2-4 (2B, 2 RBI). Riverside, Morgan 2-4 (2B, RBI), Joe Wood 1-4 (2B, RBI), Ben Huffman 2-3 (2B).
Records — Heritage 16-9; Riverside 18-4.