By Ray Conner
The varsity Broncs baseball team used their spring break to compete in a tournament.
They started on April 13 and played their last game on April 17. The April 13 game was a victory over Sierra as reported in last week’s issue of the Kern Valley Sun. Kern Valley collected two wins this past week to get them primed for the stretch run in the High Desert League.
The Broncs have three games left in their regular season with games, against Rosamond, Cal City and finishing up with rival Bishop. They are currently in a four-way race to the league title.
Rosamond sits atop the HDL standing with a 7-2 mark. Bishop follows at 6-2, while the Broncs sport a 6-3 record. Boron at 5-3 is the fourth team in the dog fight.
Kern Valley played the Roadrunners of Rosamond on Tuesday in an all-important contest. With a win, the Broncs tied for the lead. They will then take on a 2-6 Cal City squad on Thursday before ending the season at home versus Bishop the following Tuesday afternoon.
In recent action this past week, the Broncs won two games in the Woodlake Tournament. Their only loss came at the hands of Farmersville. They collected victories over South High and Woodlake.
In their second game of the tournament the Broncs squared off with Farmersville. The final showed the Aztecs earning the 6-3 win. A four run fourth put them in the lead they never gave back.
Kern Valley took the early lead as they plated a run in their opening at bats. With two outs, Kenny Porter was hit by the pitch. A stolen base, a wild pitch and a steal of home gave the Broncs the lead 1-0. They added their second run in the top of the third. With one out, Nick Thomas singled. A walk to Thomas and Porter singled to load the bases. Thomas scampered home on a wild pitch to make it 2-0. The inning ended with those two Broncs runners left on base.
In the fourth, Farmersville exploded for the four runs. Nine batters went to the plate. Two consecutive walks set the stage for the Aztecs. One out later another free pass made the sacks full. A strikeout gave the Broncs hope, but a single, double and a triple pushed all four runs home. The score was now 4-2 for the Aztecs.
Kern Valley tried to get back into the game as they scored once in the fifth to make it a one-run game at 4-3. Porter got plunked once again to lead off the inning. He would swipe second to get into scoring position. One out later, Kieran McCarthy delivered a single to cut the lead to one. McCarthy advanced to second on the throw home to put another Kern Valley runner in scoring position with the potential tying run. Brayden Liberio was walked and then the Aztecs pitcher induced a double play ball to end the threat.
Farmersville tacked on one run in the fifth and finished with another run in the sixth to make it 6-3. The Broncs had no answer and the game went to their opponents.
Kern Valley hitting: Damon Sage, 1; Thomas, 1; Tanner Tito, 1; McCarthy, 1.
RBIs: McCarthy, 1.
Broncs pitching: Tyler Strange, L (2-4), 4 2/3 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K; Sage, 1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 K.
Kern Valley’s head coach Mike Genthner said, “We made too many base running mistakes and stranded six runners in scoring position. We should have done more with 10 free passes.”
Up next for the Broncs was the host school Woodlake. A see-saw battle ensued as the two teams combined to score 20 runs. Fortunately for Kern Valley, they were on the plus side of the scoring.
The Broncs took the game 11-9 for their second win of the tournament.
Woodlake grabbed the early lead as they scored three times in the bottom of the first. Kern Valley bounced back to knot the score at 3-3 in the top of the second. The Broncs scored all three runs after two outs in the inning. McCarthy got the ball rolling as he singled. He stole second and came around to score when Hunter Blagg reached on an error. Blagg swiped second and came around to score on Vincent Pearman’s RBI single. Pearman followed suit by taking second with the third stolen base of the inning. Ryan Walker delivered and the score was tied at three all. Walker trying to steal was cut down to end the inning. Woodlake came back to score twice to make it 5-3. Kern Valley opened the scoring floodgates in the top of third. Six Broncs would touch home plate in the inning as 11 came to the plate. Five walks and a pair of hits put the score in Kern Valley’s favor at 9-5.
Woodlake was not done as it was their turn to knot the score. They scored four times to make it a 9-9 game. In the top of the fourth, the Broncs continued to find a way to put runs up on the scoreboard. Kern Valley scored both runs without the benefit of a hit. They continued to swipe bases and take advantage of ineffective pitching from their opponent. Three walks, three stolen bases, a sac fly and three wild pitches allowed Kern Valley to take the lead back. Ahead 11-9, Woodlake came to bat, but two quick outs put the Broncs closer to the win. A walk put the potential tying run at the plate. A change of pitchers for Kern Valley was a chance to clamp down on Woodlake. Three pitches into the at bat, the Woodlake batter took off for second. He was gunned down, and the game was over, giving the Broncs the win.
Broncs hitting: McCarthy, 2; Tito, 1 (2B); Pearman, 1; Walker 1.
RBIs: Tito, 2; McCarthy, 2; Pearman, 2; Walker, 2.
Kern Valley pitching: Hansen, 2 + IP, 4 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 3 K; Thomas, W (2-0), 1 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K; McCarthy (S-1) 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 K.
Genthner said, “Both teams struggled to stop each other until the end, when it really mattered. We took advantage of seven walks and 11 stolen bases. McCarthy had a big day with two hits, two RBIs and his first career save. Thomas collected his second win of the tournament.”
The final game of the tournament pitted South High against the Broncs. It was a classic pitcher’s duel as neither team mounted much offense. Kern Valley was limited to three hits, while the Rebels recorded just two hits.
In the top of the first, the Rebels had runners at first and second. A pick off play recorded the second out and a pop up to left ended the inning. Kern Valley would put up a run in their half of the first. With one, Sage reached on an error and stole second. Tito reached on a strikeout as the catcher could not corral the ball. He would also swipe second to put runners at second and third with one out. Porter’s ground out pushed Sage home with the run to make it 1-0. It stayed that way until the bottom of the fourth. The Broncs once again went wild on the bases as the pitchers for South had a meltdown. With two outs, three consecutive walks, three stolen bases, a wild pitch and an error literally gave the Broncs a pair of runs. With the score at 3-0, South came to bat in the fifth. The Broncs tried to give away the game as they mishandled three balls for errors in the inning. No hits were recorded for the Rebels, but they had pulled to within one run at 3-2. Kern Valley shut their opponent down by retiring the final six batters to win the game.
Kern Valley hitting: Thomas, 1; Sage, 1; Tito, 1.
RBIs: Porter 1.
Broncs pitching: McCarthy, W, (1-0), 4 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K; Sage, (S-2), 2 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K.
Genthner said, “Both teams struggled against very good pitching. McCarthy was outstanding on the mound in recording his first win of the season, as was Sage in retiring all eight hitters he faced in collecting his second save of the year.”
He would go on to say, “All in all, I thought it was a successful tournament for us. We were able to go 3-1 and all four games were competitive. There were 12 schools in the tournament, nobody went 4-0, and only three of us went 3-1. For the sixth straight year, we lost one game in the tournament.”
Now it’s time for the Broncs to get back into playing for the league title mode, which started on Tuesday, when they faced off with Rosamond.