Anderson edges Mac to put title streak in jeopardy

Trojans ride 5-run first inning, withstand furious comeback to win Game 1 of series between District 17-5A titans

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Liv Pallante

Sophomore Nathan Nagy struggled to get through the first inning, and erratic team defense did help his cause. After giving him five runs and struggling with his control, he settled down to pitch into the seventh inning allowing only one more run in the game.

Grace Nugent and Thomas Melina Raab

The varsity baseball team traveled to Nelson Field Tuesday night for Round 1 of a pivotal district series with Anderson. Both teams started the game undefeated atop the district standings, and the winner would clinch a first-place tie with a chance to earn the outright district title on Friday.

Junior catcher Pablo Lopez gets a high five from first-base coach Steve Searle after hitting an RBI double with two outs in the top of the sixth inning that brought home JJ Valle-Soliz to tie the score at 5. After struggling in his two earlier plate appearances, Lopez delivered the most clutch hit of the game for the Knights. Photo by Liv Pallante.

Unfortunately for the Knights, seeking their 11th consecutive district title, the Trojans struck for five runs in the first first inning, and the game looked to be over as soon as it started.

As their bats came to life, the Knights recovered and made a tight game of it. Seniors Wyatt Cunningham and Diego Barraz led the charge with two hits on the night. Barraz went two-for-two. Sophomore Lyrr Friesem drove home two runs with a double in the top of the third to bring the Knights within a run of the Trojans.

Despite the best effort of sophomore pitcher Nathan Nagy, the early deficit was too much to overcome. Nagy threw 103 pitches, allowing six hits, and striking out six, two of those being freshman UT commit Ed Small. Barraz relieved Nagy to get the final two outs in the bottom of the sixth on only six pitches.

Nagy sees his performance as mediocre. 

“It was definitely not my strongest performance because I failed to control the zone during some of the game,” he said. “I gave up three earned runs, which is mediocre, but I put my team in tough positions during the game.”

His battery mate Pablo Lopez admires Nagy for his confidence and his standards. 

We made a few errors and just messed up the simple routine stuff.”

— junior catcher Pablo Lopez, describing Anderson's five-run first inning

“The zone was very very tight,” Lopez said. “Nagy did [well], but the mound was pretty bad, but he had his ups and downs through the game, the bright spot being the three up three down inning.”

Nagy’s defense didn’t help him out in the first. Bad decisions and fielding errors in the first inning basically gave the Trojans extra outs. But Nagy refused to blame the bad inning on his fielders.

“Even though there were some costly errors during the first inning, it’s no excuse for not filling up the zone,” he said.

Lopez was tougher on the Knight defense than Nagy was.

“It was slow in the first inning,” he said. “We made a few errors and just messed up the simple routine stuff.”

Anderson’s Gus Begeet was a big factor in the Trojan win. He went two-for-three at the plate with a double and two runs batted in. Evan David was the winning pitcher, striking out nine and allowing one hit and one run in four innings of pitching. He relieved Aiden Johnson, who unlike last year’s game, did not reach his max pitch count, giving up four runs in three innings with two strikeouts.

We are confident about Friday. We understand it’s do or die and are prepared to battle it out.”

— sophomore pitcher Nathan Nagy

The Knight’s efforts were cut short when the Trojans came alive again with a triple in the sixth inning to win, 6-5. The Knights won the final six innings, 5-1, but the big five-run first inning from the Trojans was just too much to overcome.

Just like the previous year, a Game 1 loss to Anderson has but Mac’s district title streak in jeopardy. The 10-year streak’s survival rests on one game. 7 p.m. Friday at Northwest Park. With a win, Mac and Anderson will share the district championship, but if Anderson wins they earn the outright district title. Either way, the Knights have already clinched a playoff spot, and the game Friday only affects the teams’ seeding.

“We are confident about Friday,” Nagy said. “We understand it’s do or die and are prepared to battle it out.”

Senior Diego Barraz keyed the Knights’ offensive comeback with two hits in two at-bats for a perfect game at the plate. Photo by Liv Pallante.