Avalon senior pitcher Niko Sanchez (6-1) struck out seven batters Wednesday and yielded just three hits on the way to a 3-1 Black Knights victory over archrival The Heights Cavaliers on Senior Night.
“[Sanchez] was on top of everything today,” said Avalon coach Patrick Duffy. “He did everything we needed him to. When we needed it inside, he threw inside. He was fantastic today.”
The Black Knights fell behind in the first inning 1-0, after two errors kept the inning alive. Heights first baseman Griffin Kime followed with a single to score the game’s first run.
Avalon quickly answered however, as junior Tommy Sanchez hit a sacrifice fly to score shortstop Billy Lennox in the bottom of the first. Lennox reached on a single and advanced to third on an errant throw while attempting to steal second base.
The Heights only threatened once after the first inning, when Kime led off the fourth with a walk, and advanced to second on Nathan Gadiano’s sacrifice bunt.
Sanchez however, squashed the rally by striking out the next batters on just eight pitches. It was the last time in the game a Cavaliers runner reached second base.
In the bottom of the third, Avalon struck again when senior Ian Foland reached third base on another sacrifice fly by Tommy Sanchez. With two outs, Cavaliers pitcher Matt McCreary intentionally walked Niko Sanchez to face freshman outfielder Pearce Howard. Howard delivered on the first pitch he saw and hit a hard double down the third base line to score Foland.
“[Howard] had a great hitting performance today,” said Duffy. “He got us two great hits in crucial situations, especially that double in the third.”
Later in the sixth inning, Howard started off with a single, and eventually scored with two outs on sophomore Conor Sloan’s ground ball when Heights shortstop Brady Hall’s throw pulled Kime off first base.
Finally in the top of the seventh, Niko Sanchez forced Cavaliers slugger Joe Bruchalski to ground out to Foland, ending the game. Sanchez used just 13 pitches to earn his sixth win on the year, and third in his last three starts (all of which are complete game wins, against Gilman, St. Alban’s, and The Heights).
Avalon will next host Sandy Spring Friends School on Friday, 4 p.m. at Apple Ridge Park.