Sierra High marched down from slightly cooler Tollhouse into Rawhide Ballpark on Tuesday, pounded out 13 hits in near-100 degree heat, scored a run in the bottom of the seventh and defeated Kern Valley 12-11 for the school’s first Central Section baseball title.
Harry Blunt’s third hit, a no-out line single to center field, won it after the Chieftains opened the inning with a four-pitch walk by Triston Byrd and Zach Morgan’s bunt single.
It came in Division VI for Sierra (15-12), which placed fourth in the North Sequoia League with a 6-9 record behind D-IV schools Kerman and Chowchilla and D-V Liberty-Madera Ranchos.
But the Chieftains of coach Jon Hendrix found their stride in the postseason, beating eighth-seeded Fresno Christian 11-6 and No. 4 McFarland 6-4 to make the final against Kern Valley (16-6), which was also pursuing its first section baseball crown, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
The Broncs, who bused 120 miles from Lake Isabella, had tied it 11-11 with a five-run sixth, featuring Austin Dilley’s two-run single in an inning Sierra assisted with two errors, two walks, a hit by pitch and wild pitch.
Reed Telles relieved Blunt to escape further damage in the sixth before working a scoreless seventh to earn the win.
The beginning of the end for the Broncs in the 2-hour, 57-minute game came when Sam Hanawalt – who both started and relieved for them – walked the wrong Chieftain in Byrd.
The senior second baseman, who finished with four runs, then stole second.
Kern Valley coach Mike Genthner replaced Hanawalt after he dropped into a 2-0 hole against Morgan.
Zach Bushing, in his second relief appearance of the game, fielded Morgan’s bunt but was late to first with the throw. And Blunt followed with the first-pitch, no-doubt winner.
Central Section baseball finals
At Rawhide Ballpark
▪ Division II: No. 3 Redwood 14, No. 5 Tehachapi 4
▪ D-III: No. 13 Porterville 7, No. 6 Selma 3
▪ D-IV: No. 2 Immanuel 2, No. 1 Firebaugh 1
▪ D-V: No. 2 Chavez 10, No. 1 Central Valley Christian 8
▪ D-I: No. 1 Buchanan
vs. No. 2 Clovis North, late
▪ D-VI: No. 1 Sierra 12, No. 2 Kern Valley 11
Sierra 12, Kern Valley 11
Kern Valley (16-6) 102 035 0 –11 10 2
Sierra (15-12) 140 330 1 – 12 14 0
WP: Reed Telles. LP: Sam Hanawalt. KV, Hanawalt 2-4, 3R, 3B; Austin Dilley 3-4, 2R, 3RBI; Blake Lanterman 1-2, 2RBI; David Hudson 2R, SB; Jacob McCullough 2R. S, Triston Byrd 4R, SB; Zack Morgan 3-3, 3R, 2RBI; Harry Blunt 3-5, 4RBI, 2B; Will Martin 2-2, 3B, 3RBI; Jacob Hand 3B, RBI; Danny Brown 2B, R; Cole Meininger 2-4, 2R.