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Souders, Miller lead ’Jackets past Pinole Valley Berkeley High hands Spartan ace Koehler his first loss in more than two seasons

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Thursday May 02, 2002

Sean Souders threw a two-hitter and DeAndre Miller had a pair of clutch singles as the Berkeley Yellowjackets beat Pinole Valley, 4-0, on Wednesday at San Pablo Park. 

Berkeley (15-4 overall, 8-1 ACCAL) handed Pinole Valley ace Kurt Koehler his first loss in more than two years, using six singles and excellent situational hitting to get all four runs off of the fireballing senior. Miller struck the first blow in the third inning, slicing a single to left to score Lee Franklin from second base. Miller also had the big hit in the ’Jackets’ three-run fifth, a two-run single through a drawn-in infield. Franklin had just blooped an RBI single of his own over the Pinole Valley (6-3 ACCAL) infield. 

Miller, who plays summer ball with Koehler and considers him a good friend, said he finally found an approach that works against the right-hander’s impressive arsenal. 

“I remember the exact pitch sequence when he struck me out last year. He got me on a changeup, and that’s how he got me in my first at-bat today,” Miller said. “I know how he pitches now, and I went up there with an idea. I waited for a fastball and just put it through the hole.” 

The four runs were more than enough for Berkeley starter Sean Souders. The junior had been looking forward to his matchup with Koehler all season, and he responded with a sterling outing. After giving up a single to Adrian Smith to start the second inning, Souders retired 16 of the next 17 Spartan hitters, the only hiccup an error by shortstop Jason Moore. 

“I felt great today. I hardly ever missed,” Souders said. “I can’t really think of any time when I couldn’t hit my spots.” 

Souders struck out nine and walked only two, both with two outs in the seventh inning. The final inning was the toughest for Souders, as he loaded the bases on another Smith single and the two walks, but he struck out the side, including Anthony Jones for the final out after a talk with head coach Tim Moellering. 

Wednesday was Souders’ second win over the Spartans this season, the first being a 16-2 beating on March 29 with Koehler playing shortstop instead of pitching. Although this was their second look at the Berkeley ace, the Pinole Valley hitters often looked helpless, flailing at balls in the dirt and swinging through fastballs. 

“As long as I can get the ball over the plate, I should be able to beat anyone,” Souders said. “If I hit my spots, it shouldn’t matter if I face a team once or 10 times.” 

The win was sweet revenge for the ’Jackets, as Koehler shut them out last season at Evans Diamond on the Cal campus. That loss sent Berkeley spiraling down to finish the season with four straight losses, which doomed the team to a low seed and quick exit from the North Coast Section playoffs.  

With a senior-laden team this season, the ’Jackets are hoping to win the ACCAL, get a high NCS seed and go deep into the postseason. Wednesday’s win kept Berkeley in first place in the league, with El Cerrito and Encinal each a game back. The ’Jackets still have to face both of the second place teams again, but both must take on Pinole Valley as well as each other before the season ends. 

“If we can handle our business on Friday (against Alameda), we’ll definitely be in the driver’s seat,” Franklin said. “As long as we keep playing hard, we can let the other teams beat each other up a little.” 

Moellering hopes beating Koehler will have an inverse effect on his players from last season’s late-season nosedive. 

“Last year when Kurt shut us out, our kids lost confidence rather than giving the pitcher the credit he deserved,” Moellering said. “This was the same team and the same pitcher and we won this time. Hopefully that will give us a bunch more confidence as we go down the stretch.”