BUCS WALK PLANK
A Riverside error in extra innings gave Northern a 6-5 PAC-6 home win Tuesday and cost the Pirates a share of first place.
Riverside (13-8, 6-2 PAC-6) had entered the game one-half game ahead of Jordan in the conference standings, but its loss, combined with a Jordan (13-6, 7-2 PAC-6) win over Southern, lifted Jordan into a half-game lead.
In the bottom of the eighth, Northern catcher Dillon Roberts was on third base and the bunt was on for batter Pete Vurnakes, who poked a dribbler down the third-base line, right where the Knights wanted it.
The Knights figured the third baseman would charge the ball, but the pitcher fielded it and made a wild throw to first to try to get Vurnakes, allowing Roberts to come home with the walk-off winning run, Northern coach Greg Pruitt said.
“He just airmailed it. He probably should have held onto it,” Pruitt said about Riverside reliever Blake Morgan. “I feel bad for him.”
“That play didn’t lose the game,” Riverside coach Doug Simmons said. “We played bad the whole night. We gave them some runs early in the game that were unearned.”
On that final exchange, Riverside’s third baseman was supposed to make that play, Simmons said. Because of some lineup shuffling, the guy on third, a solid player, just so happened to be one of the more inexperienced Pirates, Simmons said.
“Sure enough, the ball found him at the inopportune moment,” Simmons said.
Riverside started the game shelling Northern’s Griffin Baker. Bub DeLuca smacked the first pitch of the game into the outfield for a double, and Cameron Snow singled to bring him home. Then Jake Kusz crushed one for a double to drive in Snow, giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead.
Northern tied the game in the bottom of the first. Riverside helped the Knights’ cause by hitting a batter and committing an error, foreshadowing an off night for what had been the No. 1 team in the conference.
“We didn’t play good baseball tonight,” Simmons said. “We didn’t get our bunts down. We made some mistakes on defense, and when you play good people and you give them extra outs and you give them extra opportunities and you let them hang around, then those things happen.
“We made way too many errors tonight on our side, and I’m not talking about errors on the board — just physical errors, mental errors.”
Baker found his groove on the mound. Pruitt said he told Baker not to let the top of the Pirates’ lineup beat him with their very big bats.
“He did what he had to do, and he pitched outstanding,” Pruitt said.
Josh Helm climbed the hill for Northern in the seventh and was throwing heat to the Pirates.
“They couldn’t catch up to him,” Pruitt said.
Northern, in third place in the PAC-6, is the only team in the league to have beaten the Pirates, stopping them twice.
Northern 6, Riverside 5, 8 innings
Riverside 200 021 00—5 10 4
Northern 220 010 01—6 7 2
Cameron Snow, Blake Morgan (8th) and Jake Kusz; Griffin Baker, Josh Helm (7th) and Dillon Roberts. WP—Baker, LP—Snow.
Leading hitters—Riverside, Bub Deluca 2-5 (2B), Cameron Snow 3-4 (RBI), Jake Kusz 3-4 (2 2B, 2 RBI); Northern, Jacob Bierman 1-4 (2B, 2 RBI), Dillon Roberts 1-4 (RBI).
Records—Riverside 13-8, 6-2 PAC-6; Northern 11-11, 6-3 PAC-6