May 29, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Krutiak provides relief and Beckman defeats Irvine 8-5 to stay atop PCL standings

Beckman’s Niklas Krutiak fires a pitch during Tuesday’s PCL game (Photo: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Beckman pitcher Niklas Krutiak was up to the challenge Tuesday afternoon when the Patriots needed him the most.

Krutiak came on in relief of starter Justin Goldstein in the third inning, restored order and shutout Irvine the rest of the way to lead the Patriots to an 8-5 victory over the Vaqueros in an early season Pacific Coast League showdown.

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Krutiak struck out six and did not allow a hit in his relief stint.

“I told our guys we played seven innings and what I mean by that is we played one pitch at a time, one at bat at a time,” said Beckman Coach Kevin Lavalle.

“We had a starting pitcher come out who just didn’t have his best stuff today but Nik Krutiak comes in and did what he’s been preparing to do since the season ended last year and threw strikes and I don’t think he gave up a hit.

“It was a great win. Sometimes you win a game and it’s one guy who does something or who gets the big hit. Today, it was just kind of everybody. Everybody throughout the lineup executed when they had to.”

Irvine (6-2, 1-1) battled hard in the early season league showdown against the defending league champions.

But the Vaqueros were victimized by two errors and three Irvine pitchers combined to walk eight and hit one batter. The Vaqueros had four hits in the first three innings, but did not have a hit the rest of the way.

Beckman (7-2, 2-0) wound up with nine hits.

“I knew Irvine was going to be good. We’ve scouted them a little bit and that’s a team over there that’s going to fight for 15 league games, 13 more,” Lavalle said. “We’ve got to play them two more times and I just tip my hat to Gabe (Irvine coach Gabriel Cota) and the coaching staff over there. That’s a team that didn’t score a run against us last year and four batters into the game today, they scored two more runs than they did all of last year.”

Irvine trailed 5-2 going into the bottom of the third inning but managed to tie the game up.

Grant Lockwood had an RBI double, Marc Filia drove in another run with a single and Filia later alertly scored from third on a foul pop out down the right field line. Elliot Jun was credited with an RBI on a sacrifice fly.

But in the top of the fifth inning, Beckman’s C.J. Burnette led off with a double. Nick McLain was walked intentionally to put runners on first and third. McLain then stole second.

Logan Jackson then reached on an infield single driving in one run and moving McLain to third.

Then McLain scored from third when he and Jackson executed a delayed double steal, although Jackson was tagged out when he over-ran second base.

In the sixth inning, pinch-hitter Cooper Munro walked with the bases loaded to drive in Ricky Steel, who had singled and stole second, to put the Patriots ahead 8-5.

After that, Krutiak finished strong, striking out four batters in the next two innings.

Leonard Memon started on the mound for Irvine before giving way to Yoni Braca in the fourth inning. Edward Del Pozo came on to pitch in the sixth inning.

“It was a good high school baseball game definitely,” said Irvine Coach Gabriel Cota. “I think they scored four in a hurry. I thought our guys showed a lot of fight by coming back and answering them in the bottom of the first scoring a couple. We just got to be better. Twelve free passes (between walks, a hit batter and errors) is not going to get it done.

“We have a lot of guys who are here and they’re competing every day. I told them the good thing is you get to play everyone three times, so let’s bounce back. It’s got to be a great two days the rest of this week, and then go and compete on Friday. I love the fight that we showed.”

Beckman scored four runs in the first inning as Alec Gomez delivered a two-run double and Nick McLain had an RBI single.

But in the bottom of the first inning, Patrick Hackworth led off with a walk and Grant Lockwood walked. Casey Kudell then delivered a two-run single to tie it and set the stage for a wild game.

Sean McLain also contributed with two hits and a run scored and reached base three times for Beckman.

With a gloomy forecast, the game started 15 minutes early. Rain began to fall about 10 minutes after it finished.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com