NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— There aren’t many winnable baseball games when your team doesn’t register a single hit, but North Salem pulled it off in a 1-0 playoff victory at third-seeded Keio Academy in the Section 1 Class B opening round on Friday, May 18.
Junior starting pitcher Rian Balbino contributed greatly, tossing the complete-game shutout while allowing three hits and one walk with three strikeouts on just 86 pitches.
“He pitched like Rian normally pitches,” North Salem coach Rob Gilchrist said. “He threw a great game. He was pitching to contact and hitting his spots while keeping the ball down low. Our defense also had a great day making all of the plays.”
Balbino helped North Salem avenge a 16-2 defeat to the Unicorns earlier this season.
Offensively, the No. 14-seeded Tigers didn’t get any official hits but did scrap up the game’s lone run in the top of the seventh inning off Reiya Matsumoto in the classic pitcher’s duel.
Due to many errors and walks throughout the game from Keio, the Tigers loaded the bases in both the second and seventh innings.
They cashed in when Michael Puletz raced home from third base after a wild pitch. Matsumoto walked the first batter and hit the next two to set up the go-ahead run.
But that’s not where the drama ended since the Unicorns put a runner on third base with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
Gilchrist brought the infield in before a fly ball was hit to shallow right field. Aidan Healy dashed to the rescue with a full-extension diving catch as the Tigers advanced to the section quarterfinal.
“It was an exciting game,” Gilchrist said. “I really thought we were going to go to extra innings with them.”
North Salem was scheduled to square off with sixth-seeded Westlake on the road on Monday, May 21. The Tigers fell to the Wildcats in a crazy eight-inning game during the regular season.
“We’re a young team and we’re finally playing great team defense and pitching better,” Gilchrist said, “but we just need key hits at key times to win.”