Kopmar hurt in 3-0 loss; ACCAL title up for grabs
The Berkeley Yellowjackets had to feel confident heading into Friday’s game against Pinole Valley at Cal’s Evans Diamond. They had a 1 1/2 game lead on the second-place Spartans, and they had ace Moses Kopmar, who had three-hit Pinole Valley earlier in the year, headed for the mound. But two hours later, they had taken a 3-0 loss that puts the league title back up for grabs, and Kopmar was sitting in the dugout after leaving the game with an injury.
The Spartans (12-4 overall, 6-2 ACCAL), on the other hand, had just avenged the earlier loss to Berkeley (16-5, 7-2) and put themselves back in the hunt with a dominating pitching performance by Kirk Koehler. Koehler went the distance, giving up just three hits while striking out eight, seven of them looking.
“I’ve been waiting for this game,” Koehler said afterwards. “After they beat us, I just wanted to pitch against them. This is what I’ve been practicing for.”
Koehler only allowed one runner past second base, keeping the ’Jackets off balance by mixing his fastball with three different off-speed pitches. The Berkeley hitters looked alternately baffled and frustrated, summed up by shortstop Jason Moore’s ejection in the final inning for throwing his bat after being called out on strikes for the second time.
“We just ran into a hot pitcher we couldn’t get to,” Berkeley head coach Tim Moellering said.
Kopmar couldn’t duplicate his dominance over the Spartans, giving up four hits, including two doubles and a home run, in just three innings of work. Outfielder Marcus Maxwell hit him in the pitching arm with a line drive in the second, but Moellering said he took Kopmar out before the fourth because the pitcher had strained his groin.
The Spartans were on Kopmar early, hitting the ball hard three times in the first inning, but Berkeley escaped with two nice plays by Moore. But Marcus Davis started the second inning with a ringing double. One out later, Maxwell hit Kopmar, scoring Davis. Designated hitter Tom Ruelas followed with a blast over the left field wall, earning an enthusiastic greeting at home plate by his teammates. Kopmar walked the next two batters and looked to be in trouble, but got out of the jam by blowing the ball by Spartan shortstop Tim Torres.
Kopmar made it through the next inning, but something was clearly amiss with his delivery, and he was replaced by sophomore Sean Souders to start the fourth. The Spartans had a tough time adjusting from the fireballing Kopmar to crafty lefthander Souders, and managed just one run for the remainder of the game. Even that run was of the scratch variety, as Miguel Bernard reached first on a dropped third strike, was bunted to second, got to third on a wild pitch and scored on a swinging bunt by catcher Ryan Kiss.
But that didn’t matter, as Koehler shut down the ’Jackets for the shutout.
“We just came out here with nothing to lose,” he said. “We want to pretend we’re in last place, working our way to the top. It makes us play harder.”
Moellering kept a smile on his face despite the loss of both the game and his star pitcher.
“Well, this just makes the race more exciting,” he said. “It just means we have to win the rest of our games. I always thought we would be the top two teams, and it came down to it today.”