Kyle Fitzgerald shuts down Sandy
Mount Hood Conference
SANDY — Centennial pitching ace Kyle Fitzgerald spent most of the day tricking Sandy batters with what they could not see. But with the game on the line in the sixth inning, Fitzgerald was working to be as visible as possible.
The teams took a scoreless game into the sixth when Fitzgerald singled through the left side. Teammate Tommy Hemmer followed into the batter's box and laid a bunt down the first-base line. Fitzgerald was halfway to third base before the ball crawled over the line foul.
Regardless, Fitzgerald would find his way to the other corner eventually. First, he swiped second base on a tight play at the bag, then scooted into third on a ground ball by Andrew Caron.
That is where Fitzgerald went to work, aggressively exploding off third base with exaggerated running motions. He was itching to get home.
"It was an important run, and I was looking for anyway that I could contribute," Fitzgerald said. "I was moving around trying to distract him and make him miss his targets."
Sandy starter Quinnton Reilly faced a full count against Centennial hitter Landan Fery before sending a low ball to the plate. Fery swung and missed, but the tricky catch eluded the Pioneers. A dropped third strike that sparked a flurry of motion.
Fitzgerald was moving in the pitch, coming in full speed before Sandy catcher Brendan McAra locked eyes with him prompting Fitzgerald to stomp the brakes about 30 feet from home plate. McAra shifted and fired a throw to the other side to get the hitter, but the ball sailed high into right field. Fitzgerald trotted home for the game's only run.
"With the count full, I was going early," Fitzgerald said. "I got the catcher's attention, and there was a bad throw to first."
Still, the Pioneers had two more turns with the bats to get even.
Fitzgerald retired the side 1-2-3 in the sixth on a pair of strikeouts sandwiched around a grounder back to the mound.
Sandy put the tying run on base in the seventh after Colby Carson fouled off a pair of third strikes and drew a walk.
The Pioneers wouldn't get the tying run any further around the bases.
A fielder's choice put Centennial out out away from the win, and after throwing over to first base a couple times, Fitzgerald got the sign again and picked the runner off to end the game.
"Everything was nice and quick, and we came close a few times," Fitzgerald said. "They put up the pick-off sign again, and I just listened to my coaches."
Hemmer led off the fourth inning with a lead-off bunt to the third-base side, but a fly ball stranded him at second base. Elijah Sanders opened the fifth inning with a line drive to left field, but a foul pop up left him stuck at third.
Sandy caused some nervous moments in the bottom of the fifth when Gerardo Mechaca drilled a fly ball to deep center field that put Hemmer on the move.
"I knew right away that it was deep and over my head," Hemmer said. "I saw it start to tail away, and rather than spinning around, I reached my glove across and made the play."
Fitzgerald and Reilly combined to strike out 20 for the two sides. Fitzgerald spent most of the day ahead in the count, throwing first-pitch strikes to 19 of the 22 (.864) batters he faced.
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This story is slated for our Tuesday, April 9, print edition.
Thursday, April 4
CENTENNIAL 000 001 0 — 1 4 0
SANDY 000 000 0 — 0 2 1
Total bases — CNT Cameron Nolander 3, Fitzgerald, Sanders, Hemmer; SND Menchaca, Reilly. LOB — CNT 5, SND 1.