May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Ace pitcher hurls shutout and sends Tustin into CIF semifinals for first time since 2000

Riley Kelly delivers a pitch for Tustin in Friday’s game against Temple City. (Photos OC Sports Zone, Tim Burt).

Tustin High’s baseball team was clicking again Friday afternoon on a 95-degree day and behind star pitcher Riley Kelly defeated Temple City 2-0 in the quarterfinal round of the CIF Division 5 playoffs.

The Tillers are headed to the semifinal round of the playoffs for the first time since 2000 to face Burroughs of Burbank at home Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.

Kelly, a UC Irvine commit, struck out 13 and allowed just three hits, much to the delight of a standing-room-only crowd at Tustin. Many of the fans were standing all the way down the left field line. With numerous Major League scouts looking on, Kelly (10-1) did not walk a batter and hit one. Kelly also went 3 for 3 at the plate with a run scored.

“Riley Kelly gets the ball and does his thing, he threw a lot of strikes today which was pretty important for us, especially early when we couldn’t figure out a way to score and then once we got that one run lead, he kind of just took over and got us to the promised land and gets us to the semis and I can’t be happier or more proud of these boys just fighting through this entire week, not only today, but Tuesday, trying to find a way to win and survive and advance,” said Tustin’s first-year coach Ben Owens.

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Freshman right fielder Daniel Benally drove in both runs for Tustin, the first with an RBI double in the third inning to drive in Kelly, who singled. Then in the fifth inning, Kelly singled off Temple City starter Jaykob Duhamel with two outs and Benally delivered an RBI single to drive in pinch-runner Seth Halili to put the Tillers ahead 2-0.

Then it was up to Kelly, who re-entered the game, to seal the deal for Tustin (20-10). He finished striking out two of the last three batters in the seventh.

“It was a great team win for me and my team,” Kelly said. “My team played great defense behind me, that’s the most I can ask for and I think the boys just came to play today. It was a good win all-around for the team. I would say I had pretty good stuff today, I missed some locations sometimes but that happens to every pitcher.

“We’re all kind of like a family, we all play together and we all love each other. There are no negative teammates on the team and I think that’s the best part about it. We’re definitely excited.”

“The freshman Daniel Benally came up clutch twice there gets us over the line,” Owens added. “Two runs is all we needed. We would love to have more of course, but to find a way to win is all that matters right now.”

Shortstop Hayden Jordan also had two hits, a single and a double, for Tustin. Leadoff hitter Eric Taylor had two of the hits for Temple City (17-10).

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone;