June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Beckman’s Zach Ireland throws no-hitter; helps Patriots stay tied for first

Zach Ireland gets a hug from his father Doug Ireland, assistant coach at Beckman, after throwing a no-hitter. (Photos courtesy Rosalene Ledendecker).

Beckman High School senior Zach Ireland had never thrown a no-hitter.

Until Tuesday that is.

The UC Davis commit was on from the start, striking out 16 and walking three to lead Beckman to a 5-0 Pacific Coast League victory over Irvine Tuesday at Irvine. Ireland allowed just one fly ball out, the rest were strikeouts and groundouts. The 16 strikeouts surpassed his previous best of 12.

The victory helped Beckman (19-5-1, 15-3-1) remain tied for first place with Northwood with two league games left Wednesday and Thursday vs. Irvine. The Patriots have won nine games overall.

“That was my first one I’ve ever thrown and it was just really exciting, I’m happy I got to share the experience with my teammates and the guys I’ve been with for all four years, especially in my last league start, nothing beat it, I’m speechless, it was an unbelievable experience.”

Ireland (6-2) said he felt confident from the start against Irvine (10-4-1, 8-11).

“Me and my catcher (Brent Byrd) were working pretty good to start the game, I felt like I was coming out of the gate pretty hot and Trevor (pitching coach Ernt) was calling a pretty good game,” he said. “As soon as we got the first three hitters out I knew it was going to be something special. I didn’t necessarily think it was going to be this special though.”

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Ireland also had two hits and two RBI to help the Patriots keep their title hopes alive.

“We’re in a good position to potentially win league, Good Lord willing so I just wanted to go out and compete and thankfully everything went right today,” Ireland said.

Beckman coach Kevin Lavalle has seen his share of no-hitters, including those thrown by former ace James Kaprielian. But Tuesday’s effort was also special.

“I know we’ve had some in the past, James Kaprielian threw a couple but it’s a special thing and he’s been close a couple times,” Lavalle said. “Usually you start thinking about in the third or fourth inning and you realize they don’t have any hits yet. But after the second inning, I thought, ‘man, he might throw a no-hitter today.’

“It’s a special thing for him, an individual accomplishment in a team sport, I think our catcher Brent Byrd, did an unbelievable job back there and that win for Zach makes him second all-time in Beckman history in wins (19) tied for second with Trevor Ernt, who is now his pitching coach and called every pitch of today’s game. Trevor is one of the all-time great legends in Beckman history, and he just called a no-hitter.”

Kaprielian is the program’s all-time leader with 33 wins. But Ireland etched his named into the record books too.

“He’s (Ireland) a competitive kid and a four year varsity starter and you don’t really want to talk about individual accomplishments but he deserves to feel really good about himself today,” Lavalle said.

Beckman struck early off Irvine starter Jack Flanagan. Lead-off hitter Kein Tomitaka lead off with a bunt single and went to second on a passed ball. Ireland then had an RBI single and scored on a passed ball. Isaiah Kapur singled and Jack Terry reached on an error. Byrd then delivered a two-run single to make it 4-0.

The Patriots added another run in the second inning. Alex Dorantes walked and came home to score on a double by Ireland.

Irvine’s biggest threat came in the seventh inning. Evan Tamayo and pinch-hitter Owen Featherston walked with one out, but Ireland struck out the next two batters.

The game had big implications for Beckman in its pursuit of a share of the league title.

Lavalle was aware that Northwood was leading Portola late. The Timberwolves won 9-0 to remain tied with Beckman for first place.

“We tell our guys we just got to keep winning,” Lavalle said. “And really do it one day at a time. Twenty hours from now we’re going to be playing these guys again. It’s OK to feel really good about today, and then tomorrow, we got to wake up and start fresh.

“What every coach wants is they want to finish the season playing their best baseball and I think undoubtedly we are doing that and teammates started being really unselfish at the plate, our defense has been phenomenal all season and that was our strength, our pitching has been our strength Tough at bats seem to turn into good performances on the mounds by the pitchers.”

Flanagan, after allowing three earned runs in the first two innings, settled down and blanked Beckman in the next four innings before being relieved by Alex Cho. Rickie Murai pitched a scoreless seventh inning for the Vaqueros, who need a strong finish to have a chance at finishing in the top four of the league.

Four teams from the league earn automatic berths in the CIF playoffs.

“Their guy was just really good, better than we were today,” said Irvine Coach Gabriel Cota. “Early on, we gave up a few runs and we were kind of in a hole. I like the fact that after a couple innings, we decided to show up and start playing a little better ball. I keep telling these guys, you’re playing for something, you’re still battling for a playoff spot.

“At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to whether these guys want to compete or not. We have the guys to do it. Nothing wrong with your backs against the wall going into a potential playoff spot because that’s what the playoffs are like, you get one opportunity. Tomorrow, we play another game and we’ll see if we can shake it off and bounce back.”

Portola, Irvine and University are tied for fourth place after Tuesday’s game.

Irvine plays at Beckman Wednesday and the teams wrap up their series Thursday at Irvine.

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