ARCATA -- Getting good pitching performances is important no matter what time of year it is. But when postseason rolls around, it's even more crucial to success.
On Friday afternoon at Arcata Ball Park, the Neptune Beach Pearl got exactly that -- and plenty of runs to support their guy on the bump.
Starting pitcher Ryan Millison tossed six effective innings and the Pearl bats recorded 13 hits as they beat the Atwater Aviators 12-3 in the first round of the Far West League Tournament Friday afternoon at Arcata Ball Park.
”We did it all today,” Neptune Beach skipper Brant Cummings said. “We hit when we needed to, we pitched well, played catch out there. I'm really pleased with how we played.”
Millison was on from the opening pitch, striking out the side in the bottom of the first. Using a fastball that sat in the high-80s, touching 90 on a few occasions -- according to Cummings -- and a dynamo of a change-up, the 6-foot-3 right-hander struck out six and walked three while allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings of work.
”His feature pitch is his change-up,” Cummings said. “When you're able to locate your fastball and throw your change in any count you want, you'll do well.”
The Pearl offense wasn't too shabby, either, giving Millison 7-0 lead to work with after three innings, scoring three runs in the second and four more in the third.
Neptune Beach continued its unanswered onslaught, scoring three runs in the top of the sixth to extend the lead to 10-0. Johnny Bekakis and Spenser Payne both had RBI doubles in the inning.
Payne, the Pearl's DH, and leadoff hitter and second baseman Jeff Stephens led the offensive charge, recording three hits apiece. Stephens smacked two doubles while he and Payne scored two runs.
”This kind of output has been pretty typical for us the past six or eight games,” Cummings said. “We had opportunities to score runs out there and we got it done.”
For Atwater manager Rollo Adams, all he could do was watch while his team failed to execute in every aspect that the Pearl thrived in.
”Our pitching wasn't what it once was,” he said, referring to his pitching staff being banged up entering the tournament because of injuries. “Our starter couldn't get ahead of hitters. Our hitters didn't make adjustments at the plate on (Millison's) change-up.”
Now the Pearl move on in the winner's bracket, something that Cummings is certainly happy to see. They will face the Fontanetti's Athletics at 3 p.m. today.
”I feel good about how we played and now we're in a favorable position because of it,” Cummings said. “But it isn't going to get any easier from here and we need to, hopefully, do what we have been doing lately.”
(3) Neptune Beach Pearl 12, (2) Atwater Aviators 3
Pearl 034 003 200 -- 12 13 2
Aviators 000 003 000 -- 3 6 4
Pearl -- (WP) Millison 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, 2 HBP (RP) Monagle 2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO (RP) Mitchell 1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 BB, 0 SO
Aviators -- (LP) Perry 2 2-3 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 0 SO, 1 HBP (RP) Vasquez 1-3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 0 SO (RP) Lanham 2 2-3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 2 SO (RP) Barcello 2 1-3 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 SO (RP) Sato 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 0 SO
Pearl -- Stephens 3-6, 2 2B, RBI, 2 R; Bekakis 1-4, 2 RBI, 2 R; Agate 1-6, R; Senter 2-4, R; Ditmer 1-4, RBI, R; Payne 3-4, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Sparks 1-4, 2 R; Merjano 1-4, 2 RBI, R
Aviators -- Branigan 1-5, 2B; Laing 1-4, R; Wanger 2-4; Scott 0-4, R; Garcia 1-3, 2 RBI; Medeiros 1-3