The Nipomo High baseball team had Tahquitz High of Hemet on the ropes several times Tuesday afternoon. The Titans just couldn’t deliver the knockout blow.
Nipomo loaded the bases in four separate innings in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoffs but stranded the runners in each instance, culminating in a 3-2, season-ending loss in nine innings.
“Every single one of those bases-loaded jams was huge,” Tahquitz coach Ron Savage said.
Tahquitz (21-5) finished the regular season ranked fourth in Division 5 and opened the postseason with a 6-0 win over Sultana of Hesperia.
“We lost to a really good team,” Nipomo coach John Stevens said. “We lost to two really good pitchers. I had a feeling that they were going to be good. I heard a little bit about both of them, and they were exactly what they’d been described to me as. They were a well coached team, and they got out of tough situations.”
Tahquitz starter Tim Borst pitched the first five innings, scattering three hits while striking out 10 batters and walking seven.
With the score tied 2-2, Andrew Morovick came on. He went on to strike out seven batters while giving up two hits and three walks.
“They were both outstanding,” Stevens said, “and they did exactly what they needed to do when the pitches mattered the most.”
Morovick, whose throwing shoulder was taped immediately after the game, had started Tahquitz’s first-rounder Friday.
Morovick also had a big day at the plate, providing a 1-0 first-inning lead with an RBI triple and then driving in the winning run in the top of the ninth with a sacrifice fly. Morovick had already been intentionally walked twice earlier in the game, but the bases were loaded for the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Arizona Western College signee in his last at-bat.
It was the second time in three years Tahquitz has made the lengthy commute to the Central Coast to prevail against an LPL foe in extra innings. In 2009, Santa Ynez was the victim, 5-4 in eight innings. Savage said the previous similar experience was a calming factor for a handful of his players.
“We’ve been here and done this before,” he said.
The Borst-Morovick combination spoiled an equally fine performance by Nipomo starter Marc Baker. Baker yielded seven hits and had 10 strikeouts and five walks in the complete-game loss.
“It’s just a tough loss,” Stevens said. “Marc pitched an outstanding game, and it’s too bad he had to be on the losing end, but he did an outstanding job.”
Baker also went 1 for 2 with three walks, one of which was intentional.
Nipomo’s runs came on a pair of passed balls in the bottom of the fourth. Kenton Garl, Ryan McNeil, Cole Holloway and Hayden Gardner each added singles, but Nipomo couldn’t string together key hits when it needed them most.
Nipomo will be able to have several key players, including its top three pitchers — McNeil, Baker and Holloway, all of whom are juniors — return next year.
This year, Nipomo (17-6) chalked up several program firsts, claiming a share of the Los Padres League championship in its initial campaign in the league and following that by winning a first-round playoff game at home, 3-1 over Gladstone of Covina. The accomplishments marked a memorable turnaround from a 6-20 overall season two years ago.
“They’ve managed to turn the program around,” Stevens said. “Somewhere down the line, they’ll get an idea of what they accomplished, and hopefully we can build on it.”