By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Clear Lake’s dream of a perfect season and North Coast Section Division 5 championship came crashing down Wednesday in Lakeport as Head-Royce defeated the Cardinals, 7-3, in the semifinals.
The visitors from Oakland built a 7-0 lead before Clear Lake scored three runs in the sixth.
In the seventh, Clear Lake got one runner on base but could do no more against reliever Nico Hoerner. The right-hander, who throws in the mid-to-high 80s, struck out four in 1⅔ innings.
The loss was the first for the Cardinals following 26 wins.
“It was a very emotional time,” coach Zane Jensen said of the post- game meeting with his team. “There were a lot of long faces.
“My message was that we win like men and lose like men. I told them not to hang their heads, they had a fantastic year.”
Head-Royce scored one in the first, two in the third and four in the fifth.
Reid Gibbs was the winning pitcher while Dylan Williams took the loss. Williams went 2⅓ innings, struck out six and allowed three runs.
Clear Lake, with Tyler Manning leading the way, finished with five hits. He had a double, single and RBI. The other hits were by Cole Brodnansky, Matt Heller and Williams.
The Jayhawks played error-free ball while Clear Lake committed three miscues.
“We made a few mental errors that cost us,” Jensen said. “Most of those were in the field.
“Give credit to Head-Royce. They are fundamentally sound, made the most out of their hits and had good pitching.”
Jensen said Head-Royce had the best pitching his team had faced this year.
Reliever Hoerner was also the offensive hero for the Jayhawks. He had a two-run homer in the third and singled in another run in the fifth.
The visitors reached Clear Lake pitching for eight hits.
Head-Royce, coming out of the Bay Counties League-East, is the No. 4 seed. The Jayhawks (20-7) will take on No. 2 Branson in the championship Friday on the College of Marin campus.
Clear Lake cemented its place in school history by winning all 24 of its regular-season games and two in NCS.
“What I’ll remember most about this group is their work ethic,” Jensen said. “It’s what you look for in a team.”
Eleven of the 15 players on the squad are seniors and that experience helped the team through close games during the season as Clear Lake won five one-run games.
The Cardinals also had quite a few lopsided triumphs as overall they outscored opponents, 222-56.
The Lakeport school dominated NCL I opponents. The only close call was a 3-2 eight-inning victory over Cloverdale on April 17. The first time the schools played (March 24), Clear Lake prevailed 14-0.
Four players came into the final game with batting averages above .400: Brodnansky (.469), Williams (.434), Jared Strate (.424) and Jake Egger (.403).
Jordan Chana led the pitching staff with 10 wins and a 1.49 ERA, while Williams had six victories.
“We had a super year,” Jensen said. “It hurts now, but in the future this season will be one we’ll always remember.”