Eagles denied on road

PALM DESERT — Twenty hours after the Estancia High baseball program was on a high it last experienced 19 years ago, the Eagles came back down to earth Thursday.

Tyler Rios said he was exhausted when he got off the bus at Palm Desert. Making a 115-mile trip after Estancia the night before won its first CIF Southern Section playoff game since 1992 took its toll.

A second postseason victory in Division IV was out of the picture.

The 2½-drive to Palm Desert lasted longer than the actual first-round game. The Eagles ran into starter Brooks Kriske and all they managed was one hit and one run, unearned.

The right-hander struck out nine to lead the defending champion Aztecs to a 4-1 victory. Kriske made it look easy for seven innings, mowing down the final batter.

The Eagles' second playoff game in as many days lasted 86 minutes. They found it hard to do much against Kriske.

"We were just a little bit overmatched," Estancia Coach Matt Sorensen said.

Kriske reminded Sorensen of another pitcher, Laguna Beach's Chris Paul, who dominated the Eagles (14-13) in Orange Coast League play this season. The difference between Paul and Kriske, Sorensen said, not much, maybe Paul's ball moves a little more.

Kriske's fastball sure went past swinging bats. Palm Desert Coach Darol Salazar called the complete game turned in by Kriske a typical one.

It is hard to believe Estancia took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second against Kriske.

"We were really excited about our 1-0 lead," Rios said.

The advantage disappeared in a hurry as the top-seeded Aztecs (25-4) scored four runs in the bottom half of the second.

All the scoring happened in one inning.

Kriske did not need much run support to improve to 11-1 on the season. The junior had to wait to take the mound at the start.

The game began 15 minutes behind schedule. When it was supposed to get underway, the Eagles took infield and looked good.

Then the real action began.

After Kriske retired the side in order in the top of the first inning on just seven pitches, it was Estancia's turn to play defense.

The leadoff hitter put the ball in play on the second pitch by Tyler De la Peña. A sure out in right field, but Ben Beck lost the fly ball in the sun and it dropped in for a single.

De la Peña needed easy outs a day after making his second postseason start. The senior struggled with his command Wednesday in his first outing. He went only two innings during the Eagles' 5-3 wild-card victory at Anaheim because he could not get outs.

De la Peña got the next three batters to hit the ball in the air and the outfield did its job.

The Eagles in the second inning then went ahead, 1-0, making it the second time they were the first team to score in their two playoff games. Steven Macias reached base after an error and Andres Hernandez bunted him over to second base.

Brodie Pearce picked up Macias with a long single, giving the Eagles the lead. It did not last long.

In the bottom half of the second, De la Peña got into trouble. He walked the leadoff batter. Walks were an issue for De la Peña on Wednesday.

The Aztecs made the right-hander pay. USC-bound senior Kaz Halcovich doubled to deep left field, the first of three consecutive doubles for Palm Desert.

John Schuknecht almost hit one out of the park in left-center field, but the ball missed hitting the yellow padding near the 369 sign. He settled for a two-run double and just like that the Aztecs were on top, 2-1.

The next player to hit the ball over the head of an Estancia outfielder was Cody Kabeary. He doubled to deep center to drive in a run. A throwing error allowed the Aztecs to take a 4-1 advantage.

That four-run, four-hit inning was the lone one in which Palm Desert hurt De la Peña. He gave up just two hits in the five innings he shut out the Aztecs.

"De la Peña did an unbelievable job of keeping the hitters off-balanced and our defense did a good job of making routine plays," Sorensen said. "I couldn't really expect more from De la Peña on the mound. He battled and he kept us in it.

"Those are very, very good hitters. [They have players going to] Arizona, USC. A couple of these guys are going to get drafted, but that's just a phenomenal offensive team and De la Peña made a few of them look bad."

*

CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs

First round

Palm Desert 4, Estancia 1

SCORE BY INNING

Est 010 000 0 — 1 1 1

PD 040 000 x — 4 6 1

De la Pena and Pearce; Kriske and D. Schuknecht. W – Kriske, 11-1. L – De la Pena. 2B – Halcovich (PD), J. Schuknecht (PD), Kabeary (PD).

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