ERIE — The grapefruit-sized ankle wasn’t going to prevent Kyle Leahy from making his final start of the regular season Thursday.
Not with so much still on the line for the Erie baseball team.
Sure, the Tigers have clinched the Tri-Valley League crown, but their ambitions have increased. They want to host a 4A district, and going a perfect 14-0 in the league might be the only way to do it.
Erie is one win away from the clean sweep after Leahy pitched the Tigers to a 5-1 victory over visiting Mead, despite an ankle that significantly ballooned after he fouled a pitch off his foot on Wednesday. The Colorado Mesa-bound senior struck out nine and went 2 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs.
“I’m just happy we won, but we need one more because we don’t want to go to the Western Slope again this year,” said Leahy, whose Tigers traveled to Montrose each of the past two seasons. “I don’t what (14-0) would do, but if we win, that’s the best we can do.”
No matter where Erie (16-2, 13-0) ends up, Leahy won’t start on the mound again until districts on May 9. That made this one a big deal, in regards to remaining sharp against live hitters and for getting the Tigers a victory in the first of a two-game set against Mead (7-9, 5-7).
“I think he went 92 pitches today, and he hasn’t been over 100 all year,” Erie coach Harold Simmons said. “It’s usually somewhere between 80 and 90. Ten days off is going to be a pretty long break, so I think we’re going to scrimmage Prairie View on Wednesday, and he’ll get a little bullpen in and get some work there.”
While a 14-0 league mark won’t guarantee the Tigers one of the eight host seeds, it will make them a prime candidate. But before they can worry about that, they have to defeat the Mavericks one more time.
Don’t count on Mead rolling over. Left-hander Gunner Pickett will start for the Mavericks against Erie’s white-hot Zane Begano on Saturday.
“I think that’d be awesome to give them their first loss in the conference,” Pickett said. “That’d be a good goal. If we make our plays and keep hitting like we’ve been the last couple games, I think we can hopefully pull out a W.”
The Mavericks managed only four hits against Leahy but drew four walks and generated spells of traffic. Leahy limited the Mavericks to Dillon Buckendorf’s RBI groundout in the third. He averted damage in the sixth by striking out two consecutive batters with runners on second and third.
Leahy said he “wasn’t exactly sharp” due to the injury, but he undoubtedly was effective.
“He hits his corners. He keeps it low,” said Pickett, Mead’s leadoff hitter. “Good pitchers do that, so it’s nice knowing you’re facing a good pitcher. I went and watched one of their games earlier in the season and I could see the difference with his ankle injury. But he still pulled out a W, so that’s awesome for him.”
Now the Tigers will try to pull out one more and await their postseason fate.
“To me, I think the Wild Card points are a zoo and kind of a real crapshoot,” Simmons said. “I think we have to win on Saturday to host, the way the numbers work out. It’s crazy to think you need a full 17 wins and an undefeated conference season to host.”
Leahy got the Tigers on the board with a two-run double in the first, and Begano produced an RBI groundout later in the inning. In the third, Luke Conilogue and Clint Allen added RBI singles.
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Erie 5, Mead 1
At Erie HS
Mead 001 000 0 — 1 4 1
Erie 302 000 X — 5 8 1
W — Kyle Leahy (8-0). L — AJ Bartel (2-4).
Mead hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — Gunner Pickett 3-0-1-0, Luke Levine 3-0-1-0, Dillon Buckendorf 3-0-0-1, Easton Adler 1-0-0-0, JP Trott 2-0-0-0, Jake Skrine 1-0-0-0, Tyler Levine 3-0-1-0, David Kirby 2-0-0-0, Justin Nelson 1-0-1-0, JT Surrage 2-0-0-0, Matt Regan 1-0-0-0, Scott Martenson 2-1-0-0, Riley Glynn 1-0-0-0. Totals 25-1-4-1. 2B — L. Levine, T. Levine. SB — Adler.
Erie hitting (ab-r-h-rbi) — BJ Jensen 3-1-0-0, Josh Crites 3-1-1-0, Kyle Leahy 3-0-2-2, Riley Deckert 0-2-0-0, Luke Conilogue 3-1-1-1, Zane Begano 2-0-1-1, Nick Gavit 3-0-0-0, Clint Allen 3-0-1-1, Nic Ogimachi 3-0-2-0, Cooper Bartholomew 0-0-0-0, Zach Elliston 2-0-0-0, Dakota Duerkson 0-0-0-0, Tucker Dudley 0-0-0-0. Totals 25-5-8-5. 2B — Leahy 2. 3B — Ogimachi. SB — Crites, Conilogue, Begano.
Mead pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — AJ Bartel 3-6-5-3-1-1, Jordan Miyake 3-2-0-0-0-0.
Erie pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) — Leahy 7-4-1-0-4-9.