Diamond thriller! Incline completes improbable rally to earn playoff berth (video)
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nevada — Incline’s Tyler Knight singled home Brayden Snearly to complete the impossible and pandemonium ensued.Snearly was mobbed by teammates after jumping on home plate.
The delirium quickly shifted to Knight, whose soft liner to right center field completed the Highlanders 4-run, seventh-inning rally to put Incline into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season.
Coaches hugged. A large contingent of parents and fans ran onto the field with cell phones to record the moment.
It was a championship-caliber celebration.
“This game might have been the best baseball game I’ve ever been involved with, and I’ve won at state championship at Incline,” said Highlanders head coach Billy Knight. “That’s a great little baseball team (Battle Mountain) over there, but these kids here, they showed what heart they had. I’m so proud I can’t tell you.”
Incline swept a doubleheader from Battle Mountain, Friday, May 4, by identical 5-4 scores, with the final game a winner-take-all for who reached postseason.
“It was just amazing,” Snearly said, while smiling and fighting back tears. “Both teams played outstanding. It was a tough-fought battle. It just came together for us in the end.”
After the Longhorns put up three runs in the top of the seventh, things looked bleak for the home team.
Coach Knight gathered his kids and told them he didn’t want heroes swinging for the fences, he wanted base runners.
Incline had its top of the lineup coming to bat and leadoff hitter Dalton Fry worked a walk. Jake Harrell followed by being hit by a pitch.
The tying run came to the plate in the form of Tristan Summers, the team’s best player. The senior with the 600 average, popped out. But there is no way Incline wins either game without Summers.
So after carrying his team to the finish line, his mates broke through the ribbon.
Zach Paolilo followed with a blast to center field that hit off the top of the wall. It went for a single and loaded the bases.
“We had a little snafu there on the basepaths,” Coach Knight said. “We should’ve had a run and runners on second and third.”
Jacob Collins followed with a sacrifice fly to set up Snearly’s heroics.
The freshman launched a rocket to the wall to plate Harrell and Paolilo and the game was tied 4-4.
“I just wanted to hit the ball, anything. I was desperate to get a hit and it happened,” Snearly said.
Knight went up to the plate looking for something he could drive. He got it, barreled it up and won the game.
“My heart is racing running to first,” Knight said. “I see the centerfielder run in and I’m begging he doesn’t catch it. I saw it fall, and I was just so happy.”
“Madness is what happened. Amazing,” Summers said. “When I wasn’t there, my boys were there.”
Summers glued the two games together. He pitched the last 3 2/3 innings in the opening game and hurled the first 3 1/3 innings of the nightcap.
And he pitched like Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. He barely allowed contact. He gave up just one hit, and one batter reached on an error, while striking out 13. He earned the victory in game one and no decision in game two.
“We got a great, great, great effort from Tristan,” Coach Knight said. “We hung in there and he closed them out.”
The Highlanders had 10 hits in game one, including three from Snearly and two each from Fry, Summers and Paolilo. Knight drove in two and Jacob Collins scored twice.
Summers scored on an error in the top of the fifth to give Incline a 5-4 lead.
Knight started and allowed two earned runs on five hit and two walks while striking out seven in 3 1/3 innings.
Collins earned the victory in the nightcap with a perfect inning and two strikeouts.
Incline (13-8 Northern League) is the fourth seed in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association Class 2A Northern League Championship tournament and will take on No. 1 Yerington (19-2 Northern League), at 10:30 a.m. Friday, May 11, at Battle Mountain High School. Should the Highlanders win, they will play again at 6 p.m. Should they lose, they will be in a familiar place, fighting for their playoff lives at 3:30 p.m.
“This team has a mentality, if we want to win, we can usually pull through,” Snearly said. “It’s a great team. I love playing with these guys.”
Game notes: Over 100 people were in attendance. … The first game started at 2 p.m. and the second game finished with the stadium lights at Incline Middle School beginning to take effect. … Incline left fielder Jacob Leoncio made a diving catch in the sixth inning of game one to rob at least a single. … Players from North Tahoe (No. 2 seed in playoffs) attended and rooted for the Highlanders.