FREMONT — Ice cream always tastes better after a win.
As has been the tradition with Aaron Willard-coached baseball and softball teams, Eastside celebrates a big win with some chilly treats.
Saturday, the Blazers gave up a first-inning run but bounced back to defeat Fremont 4-1 in the championship game of the Northeast Corner Conference Tournament.
“I love ice cream, especially on a nice, sunny day,” coach Willard said afterwards.
The ice cream was going to have to wait, though.
Through 5-1/2 innings, juniors Gabel Pentecost of Fremont and Owen Willard of Eastside dominated opposing hitters, mixing their pitches and location with great effectiveness.
Pentecost fanned nine Blazers through four innings while Willard sat down seven Eagles in five turns.
Pentecost finished with 10 strikeouts, throwing 107 pitches before exiting with one out in the seventh. Willard threw 102 pitches, allowing five hits and two walks with 11 strikeouts in the complete game effort.
Fremont (8-5) got on the board in the first.
After Willard struck out lead-off batter Kameron Colclasure, Jaden Zuccolotto beat out a grounder to the hole at short.
He stole second and came home when Nicholas Miller was safe on Ryder Reed’s throwing error.
Later, Pentecost singled, but Corbin Beeman, running for Miller, was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
In the Eastside second, Carsen Jacobs reached on an error and tried to score on Willard’s single when a throw to third bounced away. Third baseman Robert Skorupski threw home and Miller applied the tag.
In the Blazer fifth, Jacobs reached when Skorupski short-hopped a throw to first.
Willard connected for a double to the right-center gap, chasing Jacobs to third.
Fremont pulled in the infield, but Eastside’s Wade Miller blooped a single to left to bring in Jacobs. Dylan Hertig, who had three of his team’s seven hits, sent a seeing-eye single between short and third to chase home Willard and Miller.
With one out, the Blazers tried to execute a suicide squeeze, but courtesy runner Hugh Henderson was tagged in a rundown between third and the plate. Pentecost fanned the next batter to end the inning.
“We finally put it in play,” coach Willard said. “We struck out way too much early and made it too easy.
“In our whole scheme of things, if you get six or seven pitches per at-bat, it runs the pitcher’s count up,” he continued. “Every foul ball is important, every good take’s important. That just helps with the end result.”
Eastside picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.
Hayden Gardner legged out an infield hit, and pinch-runner Laithyn Cook advanced on a passed ball. He took third on Liam Franz’s grounder and scored on a fielder’s choice to make it 4-1.
Fremont’s best chance to score came in the top of the sixth.
After Willard fanned the first batter, Zuccolotto reached on Colben Steury’s error, while Ethan Bock drew a walk and Nicholas Miller singled.
With the bases loaded, Willard struck out the next two, the last coming on a 3-2 deflected pitch caught by Hertig, the Blazer catcher.
After that pitch, the umpires huddled before calling Pentecost out on third-strike, caught foul tip.
“(Pentecost) gets hit on the hand but doesn’t say anything,” Fremont coach Justin Bock said. “The umpires knew it deflected, but they used his reaction to decide it must have hit the bat.
“Instead of a run in and a 3-2 game with the bases loaded, that was the end of the inning.
“We had two great umpires,” Bock continued. “I don’t blame them. That’s a tough call. Gabel’s such a reserved kid, he’s not going to react to anything.
“It was frustrating, but at the same time, (we had) high-caliber umpires. They’re making the best call … even the home plate umpire said, ‘With the evidence I have, this is the best call we can make.’
“It’s frustrating because it went against us, but it’s part of the game. You just move ahead.”
That was Fremont’s last, best chance.
Willard retired the first two Fremont batters in the seventh before Skorupski singled to center. Colclasure hit into a force play to end the game.
With the way Pentecost was dealing through four innings, the Blazer mentor had flashbacks to his prior life as Eastside’s softball coach.
“It got me thinking back to my fast-pitch days. When good pitchers are on the mound, is maybe one run going to do it?” he said. “Fortunately, we got a couple of big hits that inning and got a couple across.
“He pitched really well,” Willard said of his son. “I thought he had his velo (velocity) back. I thought Monday (at Fairfield), he was down a little bit so we gave him some rest. Fremont’s a very good baseball team.”
Bock said, “Owen’s got our number. He pitched real well for the second time against us.
“I thought we had better at-bats up and down the lineup, but once you get down two strikes against him, with his repertoire, it’s really hard to make good contact. You’re in such a defensive mode against him.
“Gabel Pentecost threw an outstanding game. Defense kind of let him down a little bit in the fifth inning with two plays that should have been made. … We just didn’t make plays behind him that fifth inning.”
Since 1996, the Northeast Corner Conference tournament trophy has been named for the late Michael D. Fiedler, who was Eastside's head coach for 14 seasons, winning 248 games, five conference tournaments and a sectional championship.
Upon presently the trophy to Eastside's seniors, Fremont athletic director Roger Probst, who coached the Eagles for many seasons, said that Fiedler was not only a great competitor, but more importantly, a friend.
Eastside senior Dylan Hertig handed the trophy to assistant coach Garth Fiedler, Mike's son, before players and coaches gathered for team photos.
The tournament title is Eastside's eighth since joining the NECC since 1981. The Blazers also played for the tournament title in 1981, 1982, 1994 and 2000.
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