Baseball: Trojans rally to win playoff opener
In his fourth appearance at home plate, Erik McNeill delivered in a big way for the Oak Ridge High baseball team.
The junior second baseman, hitless in two at bats with a walk in Monday’s Sac-Joaquin Section Division I home opener against Napa, hit the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning for the 6-5 win.
The Trojans (18-9) advance into the double-elimination portion of the playoffs at Sacramento City College today at 4 p.m., playing Sierra Foothill League champion and No. 1 seed Rocklin. The winner plays on Saturday, while the loser fights off elimination next Monday.
With Napa clinging to a 5-4 lead in the eighth, Oak Ridge loaded the bases when Tyson Solis, Tanner Ales and Logan Denholm singled. Kyle Barisone hit into a sacrifice fly to center field, sending Solis home to tie the game at 5-all. Andrew Lackowski, pinch-running for Ales, moved to third while Denholm remained at first.
Then McNeill smacked a fast ball deep into left field that sent Lackowski home. That set off a wild celebration, as Trojan players stormed the field to congratulate McNeill after Troy’s second straight walk-off victory on their home field.
“I was just looking for the ball to drive up the middle,” McNeill said. “(First two at-bats) I was just getting anxious. I tried to stay patient, try to hit my pitch.”
Oak Ridge head coach Todd Melton felt positive his squad would respond after the Indians scored their go-ahead run in extra innings. The Trojans also had to rally from a one-run deficit an inning earlier.
“We’re really good when the game is on the line,” Melton said. “It (fast ball) was there, and he (McNeill) went for it.”
The Trojans led 3-2 entering the seventh inning. But the Indians took a 4-3 lead thanks to three hits that included a double from Sam Dearden. McNeill walked to lead off the bottom of the seventh, and scored the tying run when Brogan Cooper hit a double to right field.
Oak Ridge had led 3-0 in the bottom of the fifth when Jon Seim walked, moved to second and third on a stolen base and passed ball, and scored Cooper’s grounder.
Solis and Ales scored the Trojan runs in the bottom of the first inning. Solis (2-for-4) singled and Ales walked for Barisone, who doubled to right field to make it 2-0. Oak Ridge finished with seven hits in front of a large contingency of Trojan fans.
“We had a nice crowd,” Melton said. “We gave them a show.”
Austin Root started on the mound for the Trojans, tossing seven innings. Connor Davis and Cooper pitched in the eighth inning.