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Baseball playoffs: Clearfield’s Kotter strikes out 14 to win series over Northridge

By BOB JUDSON - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 13, 2024

CLEARFIELD — There are 21 outs in a regulation high school baseball game.

Clearfield battery mates Peyton Kotter and Jake Ross played pitch and catch for two of every three of those outs Monday against Northridge.

Kotter struck out 14 with Ross on the receiving end and the No. 15 Falcons swept the No. 18 Knights, and advanced to the second round of the 5A state tournament with their second straight 3-1 victory to take the best-of-three series.

Kotter used a combination of three pitches in the complete-game victory, scattering four hits and walking two for Clearfield.

“Fastball, curveball and sort of a splitter, but we looked mostly fastball away today; tried to mix in a couple of curveballs to keep them off balance,” Kotter said. “In high school baseball, if you can paint the corners, the umps will usually give them to you.”

Kotter struck out the side three times and once recorded eight consecutive outs on Ks. At other times, he let his teammates have a chance to contribute.

“I think confidence; my teammates are supportive of me and always cheering me on, so it’s kind of contagious. Once the train gets rolling it’s super helpful,” Kotter said. “(Northridge) is a good hitting team and sometimes they hit pitches and sometimes pitches were in the zone. When they put the ball in play, my teammates did a really good job of making the plays.”

The Falcons (14-13) got all the runs they needed in a three-run first inning (all three runs were unearned) in a repeat of the gifts Northridge gave them in Saturday’s Game 1.

“I think pressure was a big part of that; it sometimes gets to you a little bit in your head and it can be hard to make simple, easy plays,” Clearfield left fielder Logan Fenn said.

Fenn lined a one-out single to center, scoring Hudson Meyer and Ross, who both reached base on errors, and first baseman Taven Swartz chased Fenn home with another single as Clearfield had four hits in the inning.

“My coach told me earlier they were looking to throw me away and slow, so for that whole at-bat I was just sitting there waiting for anything low on the outside corner and I took a pitch and placed it right over second,” Fenn said.

Ryan Frei singled after Swartz and the Falcons had bases loaded with only one out, but Northridge pitcher Tytan Redd got out of the inning without further damage and pitched a complete game for the Knights.

Redd struck out three, walked one and allowed six hits, just two after the first inning.

The Knights plated their only run on a throwing error in the fourth inning but threatened to tie the game (or more) with runners on second and third and no outs in the sixth.

But, after a meeting on the mound, Kotter struck out the next three batters on 10 pitches, escaping with no harm done.

“We talked about remaining calm and keeping it simple,” Kotter said. “My coaches and teammates instilled confidence back in me and thankfully I was able to shut down the next three batters.”

Northridge (12-14) is a fellow Region 5 foe, which led to a little extra spice in the postseason matchup.

“Gets intense playing people you know; it was cool to be able to face those guys in the playoffs,” Kotter said. “We split the season series. They’re a super tough team … hard playing people, you know, because they’re great games.”

In the midst of his eight straight strikeout run, Kotter had a no-hitter two outs into the fourth inning. He then navigated difficult waters in the fifth and six before closing with a perfect seventh inning, including a strikeout to end it.

“I was kind of going pitch by pitch, keeping it simple throughout the game,” Kotter said. “Kept my pitch count shorter to finish the game. It was fun to end it (on a strikeout) and get the crowd going.”

Fenn gave props to his pitcher, saying “I was confident the whole game. If anyone can get it done, it would be Peyton. I can trust that guy to do anything; so proud of him.”

Clearfield travels to No. 2 Maple Mountain in the second round Thursday and Friday.

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