The St. Helena High baseball team’s five-game win streak ended in no-hit fashion Tuesday night in a 4-1 home loss to Kelseyville, in what was a battle between the top two teams in the North Central League I.
Knights starting pitcher Tyler Linnell stymied the red-hot Saints in a complete-game performance, striking out five and keeping St. Helena (9-8, 5-2 NCL I) off balance all evening to give his team sole control of first place in league.
It was far from a perfect outing, though, as he walked four and the Knights (9-6, 8-2 NCL I) committed three errors in the game.
The Saints had their chances, but the error bug once again came back to bite them. That disappointed head coach Darrell Quirici, who thought his team had turned a corner after rattling off five consecutive wins. The Saints committed five errors, the most they’ve had in a game since their 11-8 loss to Lick-Wilmerding back on March 2.
“Frustrating night. That’s not us,” he said. “That’s not what this team has become, but obviously we shot ourselves in the foot. When you don’t get a hit, which we didn’t, you’re not going to win a game, more than likely. But the errors, just not us.”
The costliest of the errors came in the fifth inning with the score tied at 1-1. Kelseyville had runners on second and third with two outs when a Knights batter lofted a fly ball to shallow right field. St. Helena’s second basemen backpedaled to make the play but the ball popped out of his glove, allowing both runners to score and giving Kelseyville a 3-1 lead.
The Knights added a run on a two-out double in the sixth, which was all the breathing room Linnell needed to coast to the finish.
St. Helena starting pitcher Stacy Nelson pitched well in his 4 1/3 innings of work, allowing just two hits and one unearned run while striking out seven. But he was on a tight, 75-pitch leash, since the Saints have a doubleheader at Fort Bragg on Friday. He threw 74 pitches on Tuesday and was relieved by Caleb Granados, who finished the game and allowed three hits and three runs (one earned) while striking out three and walking one.
The Saints got their lone run in the first inning on a fielder’s choice that scored Caleb Jeske from third. They had a chance to add another run in the second inning, but left Luis Robledo stranded at third to end the frame.
Jeske and Robledo connected on the defensive end later in the game to help save a run and keep the game tied 1-1. A single from Linnell with two outs in the fourth looked like it would score a runner from second. But Robledo made a perfect throw from center field to Jeske at the plate, and Jeske tagged the runner out before he could score.
The Saints also felt the umpires missed several calls throughout the game, and their frustration reached a tipping point in the bottom of the fifth.
A double-play ball resulted in a bang-bang play at first, where the runner was called out to end the inning. The Saints disagreed and comments made to the first-base umpire by members of the St. Helena dugout resulted in Quirici and an assistant coach being barred from leaving the dugout for the remainder of the game.
Quirici thought the umpires missed a clear hit-by-pitch call earlier in the game.
“I don’t know why the base ump didn’t see it because it clearly (hit the batter),” Qurici said. “I saw it; the home plate ump said he didn’t see it.”
The Saints will put this one in the rear-view mirror as they prepare for their doubleheader against the Timberwolves on Friday. The first game will be the continuation of their first matchup, which was stopped due to rain in the eighth inning while tied 5-5.
“It’s one of those nights,” Qurici said. “Sweep it under the rug, flush it away and move on. That’s all we can do. Not going to get this one back.”
St. Helena 15, Willits 1
The Saints used an eight-run fifth inning to put the Wolverines away 15-1 in five innings at Willits on Friday for what was their fifth straight win.
Jack Adkins went 3-for-4 with a double, three RBIs and two runs scored to pace the Saints offensively, while Robledo was 1-for-2 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Jeske was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, Jonathan Gamble was 1-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBIs, Sam Coltrin was 1-for-3 with two RBIs and Nelson was 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Granados went the distance on the mound, allowing just three hits and no earned runs while striking out seven and walking two.