Pirates roll through playoff opener
Cameron Snow got a surprise start Friday night and made good for Riverside coach Doug Simmons, striking out 13 and picking up a 4-1 win in the Pirates’ state 4-A baseball playoff opener against Wake Forest Heritage.
Snow, Riverside’s regular shortstop, might own the best arm on the team but was only 3-1 heading into the playoffs. Blake Morgan (8-1) has been the Pirates’ ace, and the lefthander appeared to be in line for his third straight start after both he and Snow were used in Tuesday’s PAC-6 championship win at Jordan.
“Cameron was more rested,” Simmons said. “Him coming out of the bullpen Tuesday and getting 30 pitches in was pivotal. I didn’t want to start Blake three games in a row, plus I knew Heritage likes to bunt a lot and Cameron’s a shortstop who pitches. Blake is a pitcher who plays first base.
“I thought (Snow would) be more effective, and they did square to bunt what ... six or seven times?”
For a while it looked like Snow, not to mention the defenders behind him, wouldn’t even need gloves. The senior fanned the first four batters he faced and six of the first seven. And by then, he had been staked to a 1-0 lead courtesy of catcher Jake Kusz’s two-out first-inning home run to dead center.
A base running miscue by Snow prevented it from being a two-run blast. Snow doubled to lead off the game but got careless after rounding second base and was caught sliding back into the bag by Heritage first baseman Samuel Lupton who was backing up the play and tagged him out.
“I’ve been telling the kids to be aggressive, and Cameron was just a little too aggressive on that one, I guess,” Simmons said.
Snow got into his first bit of trouble in the third. Kevin Kirkley led off with the first of six hits off Snow, but Snow picked him off first with a perfect throw to Morgan. After Snow got strikeout No. 6 for the second out, the Huskies rallied.
Three straight singles plated a run to tie the game, but Snow got Caleb Coyle to ground out and end the inning.
Riverside broke the tie with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. Micah Goodwin was hit by Heritage starter Jacob Quintal (4-4) leading off, and Morgan doubled to put runners on second and third with none out. Taylor King and Garrett Babinec followed with RBI groundouts for a 3-1 lead.
Snow, who retired the side in order in three of the final four innings, hit his only other patch of trouble in the top of the sixth. A leadoff single by Tyler Petersen, who had driven in the lone Heritage run earlier, and a walk to Coyle put runners on first and second with none out.
But Snow induced a double-play grounder to third baseman Garrett Babinec off the bat of catcher Justin Kunz and struck out Graham Upton for the third out.
“Snow pitched pretty well,” Heritage coach Tony Piercy said. “We had a couple rallies, but he pitched out of them and they made plays behind him to win.”
Morgan and Snow ended it in style. Morgan led off the bottom of the sixth with his third hit in as many trips — a long home run to right that ended Quintal’s night.
Snow, who doubles as Riverside’s top relief pitcher, ended the game the way he started it, by striking out the side.
“We played good defense, Cameron was throwing strikes, we were hitting the ball hard — right at people sometimes, and they made some good plays on us — but we’re playing pretty well,” Simmons said. “And it’s a good time to be playing well.”
NOTES — Riverside will play a second-round game at home Tuesday, likely at 7 p.m. ... Heritage was the No. 5 seed from the Cap 8 4-A Conference.
Riverside 4, Heritage 1
Heritage 001 000 0—1 6 2
Riverside 100 201 x—4 5 0
Jacob Quintal, Dylan Reget (6) and Justin Kunz; Cameron Snow and Jake Kusz. W—Snow (4-1); L—Quintal (4-4). Leading hitters—Heritage, Tyler Peterson 2-3 (RBI), Gage Novaria 2-2; Riverside, Blake Morgan 3-3 (2B, HR, RBI), Kusz 1-2 (HR, RBI). PB—Heritage, Kunz. HPB—Riverside, Micah Goodwin (by Quintal). DP—Riverside 1.
Records—Heritage 12-13, Riverside 17-7.