Aaron Berglund and Andrew Yu combined for seven solid innings on the mound and were instrumental in adding two insurance runs on offense in the final frame as the St. Francis boys' baseball team defeated Harvard-Westlake, 7-4, in the Mission League opener on Tuesday at Franklin Field.
Despite stranding eight runners on base and committing two key errors early on, the Knights (5-1 overall, 1-0 in league) relied upon timely scoring and solid late game pitching to prevent the Wolverines (1-4-1, 0-1) from taking advantage of St. Francis' miscues.
â€œWe got some pretty good pitching today and we hit the ball OK,â€ St. Francis Head Coach Brian Esquival said. â€œA couple errors kept [Harvard-Westlake] in the ball game. We just have to fine tune htat a little bit and I think we'll be okay.â€
The Knights early-game jitters allowed Harvard-Westlake to keep the game close.
Harvard-Westlake managed two runs each in the first and second inningsâ€”mostly due to poor fielding by the Knights that allowed the Wolverines to advance runners into scoring position. Berglund walked the first batter he faced â€” Wolverine lead-off hitter Oliver Lowry. After advancing on a fielder's choice and scoring from second on a two-out single by Andrew Shanfeld â€” who later scored that inning on a St. Francis fielding error.
The Wolverines had a chance to take the lead in the third inning when Berglund loaded the bases by throwing a wild pitch, hitting a batter, allowing a base on balls and giving up a single. However, he got out of the jam when Sam Katz hit a pop-up to first baseman Mark Saatzer to end the inning. Harvard-Westlake never threatened afterward, hitting the ball just twice in the final four innings.
Team ace Berglund lasted just four innings as starting pitcher, giving up four runs (one unearned), four hits and two walks. He also threw a wild pitch in the third inning, hit three batters and committed an error trying to pick off a Harvard-Westlake base-runner.
However, the Knights calmed down in the fourth inning and got two insurance runs in the seventh inning when Yu's one-out triple scored James Bonds to give St. Francis a 6-4 lead.
Pinch-hitter Jefferson Nolan's well-placed bunt down the first base line allowed Yu to score from third on a squeeze play in the next at-bat to extend the Knight lead to 7-4.
Berglund (2-for-3, two doubles) hit a double to left-center field in the next at-bat and took third in a fielder's choice as Wolverine outfielder Austin Wilson made a perfect relay to catcher Lucas Giolito to tag Nolan â€” who overran the stop sign by his third-base coach â€” out at the plate.
Despite allowing four runs in the first two innings, St. Francis wasted no time getting its offense started. In the first inning, Scottie Morrow and Karch Schreiner led the game off with two walks, each scoring on a Ryan Pires one-out double.
The Knights scored three more runs in the second inning, with Berglund, Morrow and Schreiner all crossing home plate.
â€œWe had some big key hits, had the squeeze and we put the ball in play,â€ said Esquival.
Morrow was a stand-out in the lead-off position, going 1-for-2 at the plate with two stolen bases, two runs scored and one run batted in.
The Knights finished with 11 hits on the game and limited the Wolverines to just seven. Berglund was the winning pitcher for St. Francis, while Yu pitched three shutout innings in relief.
â€œ(Berglund) is going to be a big part of what we do this year,â€ Esquival said. â€œIf we are going to be successful, he has to be successful on the mound. He had some first-league-game jitters, possibly, but he went out there, settled down and threw the ball well.â€
Jack Lazebnik took the loss for Harvard-Westlake.