LONGMONT -- Count Erie's Jon Thoren as one who hopes to get a lot more save opportunities for the baseball team as the Tigers continue what has been a lengthy trend of being involved in close games.
And one can also count EHS head coach Harold Simmons as someone that hopes the Tigers nip in the bud their propensity for coming up short in those games. After going 2-9 in one-run games last year and dropping two more games by a single run to start 2018, Erie was finally able to manage the last few innings of a contest with efficiency on Thursday night, downing Skyline 3-1 at the Falcons home field.
Skyline beat Erie twice last year by scores of 1-0 and 3-2, but Thoren's six strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings pitched in relief of Connor Leach's solid start pushed Erie to victory.
"Last year, nine one-run (losses) and this year we've already got two of them, and it's just little things here and there that make you lose those games," said Simmons, whose team only managed three hits but drew some walks to get some key runs, too. "Today, we had some things that made me think, yeah, you get beat by a a run that way. Luckily the pitching was very good for us today and was the difference.
"Our pitching depth can put us in a good spot, we just need to figure out how to plate runs when it matters."
Thoren, a junior, was pretty electric on the mound in his third appearance. A hard thrower with an ideal pitcher's frame, he certainly didn't see too many baseballs come off the bats of the opposing Falcons lineup after coming in with two outs in the fifth inning of a 3-0 game. Thoren himself had given the team a three-run lead with a two-run single in the top of that frame.
He broke off some pitches for third strikes with confidence, fooling four Falcons on the look of his six, and managed to work out of a tight situation after issuing a walk and hitting leadoff batter James Canar in the seventh. He ended up striking out the other three he faced, moving Erie to 2-3 overall and nabbing its first Tri-Valley League win.
"Our pitching is deep, and we know we have a lot of guys that will go out there and grind for us," Thoren said. "There will be other guys to have roles, come into a game and pound the strike zone. Our pitching is above average.
"(Coming in to pitch) was a little unexpected, but I've been bringing the work this winter and early this spring."
Skyline starter Ben Piggott and a duo of relievers combined to strike out 10 Erie batters, too -- Simmons cringed at that -- but two walks drawn by Leach helped Erie break through. Leach walked to lead off the fourth, and courtesy runner Mason Veve scored on a delayed double steal. In the fifth, and with two outs, the Tigers rallied using an error, a single, a Leach walk and Thoren's go-down-and-get-it base hit through the right side of the infield.
The Falcons (2-1, 0-1) capitalized on a Jaylon Scott triple in the fifth off Leach, as Nick Hamby got him home on a groundout. But Skyline could look back at the fourth inning as pivotal -- it had runners at second and third with one out and couldn't find a run.
Skyline will be spending some time in Florida this week and next, and then will pick up TVL play back at home next Thursday against Windsor.
Erie will not play again until April 4 against Valor Christian.
Erie 3, Skyline 1
At Skyline H.S.
Erie000 120 0 — 3 3 1
Skyline000 010 0 — 1 3 2
W — Erie: Leach. L — Piggot. S — Thoren.
Erie hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Kyle Couper 4-0-0-0, Nash Phillips 3-0-0-0, Gavin Mendoza 2-0-0-0, Isaac Khanna 0-0-0-0, Daniel Rogers 4-1-0-0, Zach Rees 4-1-1-0, Connor Leach 2-0-0-0, Mason Veve 0-1-0-0, John Thoren 3-0-1-2, Grayson Schenbeck 0-0-0-0, Austin Klingenmeier 3-0-1-0, Matt Kelly 2-0-0-0. Totals 27-3-3-2.
Skyline hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — James Canar 3-0-0-0, Roman Marcotte 3-0-0-0, Nick Hamby 4-0-0-1, Juan Chaparro 2-0-0-0, Ethan Drewes 3-0-1-0, Braeden Elwood 0-0-0-0, Andrew Dietz 0-0-0-0, Carlos Mendivil 3-0-0-0, Nate McGregor 2-0-0-0, Jaylon Scott 3-1-2-0. Totals 23-1-3-1.
Erie pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Leach 4.2-3-1-1-3-6, Thoren 2.1-0-0-0-2-6.
Skyline pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Ben Piggott 4.2-2-3-1-4-7, Lucas Hart 1.1-1-0-0-2-1, Drewes 1-0-0-0-0-2.