ERIE — Skyline's Nate Higgins and Erie's Ruben Portillo found themselves in a battle of wits Friday afternoon at the Erie baseball field.
With neither team able to barrel up on much of anything against the staff aces, the Tri-Valley League tussle came down to the small things and, appropriately, a sacrifice fly was responsible for the game's lone run.
For the fifth time this season, a one-run decision went against the Tigers as Higgins and the SHS defense made Brayden Blick's run-scoring fly ball in the fourth inning stand, putting the Falcons at 3-0 on the season as they head to Florida for some games next week.
Senior Avery Riddoch scored the lone run and was fired up as he did so, knowing how big a game this was for his team.
"This one builds a lot more momentum going into our season, and we're really figuring out what we've got and what our team is going to be about," Riddoch said after the rapid-by-baseball-standards contest. "We're strong mentally and physically, and we've got guys that can rake and other guys on the bench and can be good teammates. It was really good to open the (league) with a win."
It was widely predicted that the teams would play to a low score given who was on the hill, and Portillo and Higgins were each in command throughout complete-game efforts. In fact, both pitchers retired the final nine batters they saw in the game.
For Skyline, coming out of the fourth frame with a run was huge as Nick Hamby was tagged out at home plate on a call Riddoch and the Skyline folks didn't necessarily agree with.
Hamby had walked to start the inning and tried to come all the way around to home plate on a single from Riddoch and a throwing error. Erie recovered in time to get Hamby at the plate as catcher John Mirabassi held onto the ball in what could be described as a collision at home.
Higgins got Riddoch to third on a base hit, giving Blick the chance with one out to send a ball to deep right field and get the third baseman home.
"We thought the catcher was blocking the plate, but bad calls are part of the game so you just have to move on," Riddoch said. "Portillo, he got me a couple times and got me to fly out and strike out on a good curveball, but we were able to get a line drive on him, got the run in and got the win."
After getting the lead, Higgins got Erie in order in the bottom of the fourth and allowed but one base runner the rest of the game. He struck out seven.
The game sent Erie to a long break between contests with a 1-5 record, but they still might be the best 1-5 team in the state. They also lost 1-0 to Mountain View and have taken difficult decisions against Fort Morgan (the American Legion 'A' summer champs), Delta and Holy Family.
"I really think this game was just well-pitched, just like the Mountain View game, and I told the guys if you play with the same effort as today you are going to win baseball games," Erie head coach Harold Simmons said. "You have to tip your cap to Higgins, and to be honest he's been doing it for the past three years in this league.
"They played good defense, and they were able to sneak the run they needed. Ruben threw well as we expected, too."
Skyline 1, Erie 0
At Erie HS
Skyline000 100 0 — 1 4 0
Erie000 000 0 — 0 2 1
W — Higgins. L — Portillo.
Skyline hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Zietlow 3-0-1-0, Canar 3-0-0-0, Hamby 2-0-1-0, Riddoch 3-1-1-0, Higgins 3-0-1-0, Eldred 0-0-0-0, Blick 2-0-0-1, Elwood 3-0-0-0, Shannon 2-0-0-0, Schernecke 2-0-0-0. Totals 23-1-3-1. 2B —Zietlow. SB —Eldred, Shannon.
Erie hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Elliston 3-0-1-0, Mirabassi 2-0-0-0, Nelson 3-0-0-0, Portillo 3-0-0-0, Sackett 3-0-0-0, Deckert 3-0-0-0, Mayers 2-0-1-0, McLaughlin 1-0-0-0, Couper 1-0-0-0, Milner 1-0-0-0. Totals 22-0-2-0. SB —Elliston, Mirabassi.
Skyline pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Higgins 7-2-0-0-2-7.
Erie pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Portillo 7-4-1-1--2-7.