Falcons end up on wrong end of pitching duel against Sitka

Sammy McKnight pitches complete game, drives in team’s lone run in loss

Thunder Mountain looked poised to take control.

 

The Falcons had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the first inning Friday against Sitka at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park. A shallow fly out to center wasn’t deep enough to score the runner from third, and a pop out to the second baseman ended the rally.

Falcons coach Bill Macaulay said these kind of situations happen, but it was still tough to see a prime opportunity squandered.

“We could have blown the game open,” Macaulay said, “and it just didn’t happen.”

Instead, Thunder Mountain mustered just one run, losing to Sitka 2-1 and falling to 0-6 in conference play. Half of those six losses, Macaulay said, have been by one run.

Missed opportunities and a lack of timely hitting have plagued the Falcons thus far, senior Sammy McKnight said.

“You can’t strand runners as much as we’ve been,” McKnight said. “That’s probably why we lose games, is all the runners we strand. Clutch hitting is a weakness on our team. Hopefully we can get better at that.”

McKnight did his best to keep the Falcons in the game, pitching a complete game and going 3-for-3 with the team’s sole RBI. He gave up three hits in seven innings, striking out four while throwing 102 pitches. His curveball in particular was working well, drawing exclamations from Thunder Mountain and Sitka fans alike.

Sitka starter Cam Suarez also went the distance, escaping the jam in the first and rolling for the remaining six innings. His one run came in the sixth, when McKnight hit a double over the left fielder’s head to score Bryson Echiverri from first.

McKnight said he enjoyed having to make every pitch count in the pitching duel.

“You kind of get compared to the other pitcher,” McKnight said. “It makes you work harder, I think. You’re trying to out-duel him.”

The blemishes on McKnight’s line were three walks and two hit batters. Sitka’s two runs came in the top of the third inning, an inning in which the Wolves recorded zero hits.

McKnight hit Sitka’s No. 9 batter, who then stole second. An error by shortstop Owen Mendoza put runners on the corners with nobody out, which is when McKnight hit his second batter to load the bases.

Sitka’s first run scored on a fielder’s choice, and the second scored on a wild pitch. McKnight was able to limit the damage to just those two runs, but the two runs were all Suarez would need.

Macaulay said it wasn’t necessarily a bad defensive game, but there were lapses in focus that proved costly. He and the other coaches spoke to the team at length after the game, trying to emphasize the importance of remaining focused.

“Defensively, we have to focus better,” Macaulay said. “We have to want to field the ball. We’ve got to want the ball every pitch. Offensively, we’ve got to fix things in the batting cage if we can, because our pitching’s there.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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