McKinleyville’s Cameron Saso pitched a complete-game shutout en route to a 4-0 win over Fortuna, Thursday afternoon at Newburg Park in Fortuna. (Jose Quezada — For the Times-Standard)
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Cameron Saso delivered perhaps his finest start of the season — a complete-game, 3-hitter-shutout — and the McKinleyville High baseball team took game one of its 3-game Big 5 Conference series against Fortuna 4-0, Thursday afternoon at Newburg Park in the Friendly City.

“Saso was outstanding, I don’t even know what else to say,” McKinleyville’s head coach Scott St. John said. “He’s our ace and the heart of our team.”

Saso needed just 80 pitches to work through seven innings worth of Fortuna batters. The senior tossed 10 strikeouts in the win compared to just three hits, and no walks.

Fortuna, which despite the loss played one of its more competitive Big 5 games of the season on Thursday, leaned on starter Caleb Crawley for 4.1 innings before turning over the final 2.2 innings to Wyatt Wilson. Crawley gave up four runs, three earned, on seven hits, two strikeouts and a walk. Wilson was solid in the relief, allowing no runs on two hits, no walks and no strikeouts during his time on the mound.

Offensively, McKinleyville put up all four of its runs in the first three innings. Dustin Ireland got the visitors on the board first with an RBI double in the first inning. T-Ryan Stumph logged his lone hit of the day, an RBI single, in the second inning to put McKinleyville ahead 2-0 before both Lance Lally and Chase Fisher delivered RBIs in the third inning. Isaac Puzz also had a nice day at the dish, going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles while Saso recorded the same line on four at-bats.

Scoring runs in general has been something St. John has looked to his team to do more of, and earlier, in games.

“I’ll be honest, I told the team after the game we were lucky to win,” St. John said. “This is a big series for us. We have to win these three games, and if we do we’ll be in a great spot at the end of the season. We can’t take anything for granted. I felt like we should have scored some more runs and that we just needed a better effort in general. But give Fortuna credit, they are a hungry team and they really want a win — but we need a sweep.”

Offensively for Fortuna, Crawley had a double while Garrett Aust and Gabe Sandberg each recorded a single.

Fortuna’s head coach Andy Olsen said he felt his club produced a better showing in Thursday’s game than in some of their previous showings, noting that his club avoided the kind of disastrous half-dozen run inning which has plagued the group in several recent outings.

“It was a better performance today for sure,” Olsen said. “We had only one error and pitching and defense wise we were pretty solid. When you limit your mistakes you tend to find yourselves in games and that’s what happened today. The last three teams we’ve faced, Arcata, Eureka and now McKinleyville, have a combined record of 39-6. We are facing some really good teams and I feel, at times, we’ve competed with everyone. Trying to get over that hump can be frustrating but we know we are close.”

With Thursday’s win McKinleyville improves to 14-1 overall and 6-1 in Big 5 play as it remains the conference leader. Fortuna, after taking its fifth straight loss, is now 3-12 on the year and 0-7 in conference play. The two teams will meet Saturday in McKinleyville for a doubleheader beginning at 11 a.m.

 

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