Pine Creek’s glove hands are headed to state on full rest.
The No. 8 Eagles didn’t have much need for the leather on Saturday, as starting pitchers Ryan Warner and Reagan Biechler combined for 25 strikeouts in a pair of victories that gave the Eagles their third consecutive 5A district title.
Warner struck out 15 in a two-hit shutout of No. 25 Pomona in Pine Creek’s 5-0 victory in the morning. Biechler followed with 10 strikeouts in a 4-2 clinching victory over No. 9 Mullen later in the day, striking out the leadoff man in five of seven innings.
“Pitching was the story of this district,” Eagles coach Glenn Millhauser said. “You’ve got two guys with arms like that, you are going to be competitive. No doubt.”
Grant Kraus’ two-run home run in the sixth inning broke open the game against Pomona as the Eagles secured the win in 91 minutes. In the second game, Spencer Bedwell’s two-out, two-run single put Pine Creek ahead in the first inning. Warner then answered a two-run top of the third from Mullen with a mammoth home run that landed between two cars parked atop a hill beyond the right-field fence and bounded across the road.
“That’s the farthest ball I’ve ever hit,” Warner said. “It felt so good. If it was any other pitch besides the fastball I was definitely going to whiff on it because I was looking fastball the whole way.”
The Eagles added another run in the third on another Kraus RBI and Biechler made the advantage stand.
While their production throughout the season has been about the same, Warner and Biechler couldn’t be much different.
Warner is a 6-foot-7, unflappable right-hander.
Biechler is at least seven inches shorter, throws from the left side and, for better or worse, makes no attempt to hide his emotions.
That haunted him in the two-run third inning when he disagreed with a call on a pickoff attempt at first that could have ended the inning. Clearly distracted, he walked the next batter and gave up a two-run double off the top of the right-field fence.
But he used his adrenaline to his advantage in the seventh, feeding off a charged crowd to net the final two outs via strikeout.
“I think I put it into sixth gear,” said the junior, who walked two and gave up four hits in the complete game. “I was throwing my fastball as hard as I could and throwing it for strikes somehow.”
Warner, who is 7-1 with 81 strikeouts in 44 innings, had his fastball clocked at 90 mph in the frigid opener by a scout from the Chicago Cubs. The scout said the multisport standout would undoubtedly be taken at some point in the MLB Draft next month.
Warner has heard the same thing, though no one has pinpointed when he might be picked.
“They don’t know,” said Warner, who has signed with North Carolina State. “I’m just trying to keep the focus on trying to win a state championship right now, but when June comes around I’ll be real excited about it.
“Senior year has just been a blast. I’ve been so blessed with how much I’ve been able to do this year. Football team went to state (with Warner at quarterback). We were undefeated in league and now we’re going to state in baseball. It’s been something you couldn’t even write up.”