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Sutter blanks Yreka, claims section title
OROVILLE — He was getting ready to pitch in the biggest game of his life, yet Lucas Cryer was the essence of cool.
Instead of showing the nervousness one would expect prior to a championship game, Sutter High's junior right-hander was calm and collected on Saturday, joking around with teammates in the dugout and acknowledging friends who made the trip up to Butte College to watch him play.
There were no butterflies, only focus for Cryer, who was primed and ready to take the hill and pitch the Huskies to a section title.
With his teammates playing superb defense behind him, Cryer went on to allow just four hits while throwing a complete-game shutout, lifting top-seeded Sutter to a 5-0 victory over No. 2 Yreka in the Northern Section Division II championship game.
The win capped a dominant 22-2 season for the Huskies, who claimed their first section crown since winning back-to-back titles in 2007-08.
And once again, Sutter's pitching led the way. During their three postseason games against Corning, Winters and Yreka, the Huskies surrendered just one run and ended the year with 16 consecutive scoreless innings.
"It's a special group of kids, and I'm just so excited for them," Sutter coach Mark Renfree said. "They've worked hard every day since February and that's why we're here. The pitching has been stellar, and today the defense stole the show."
Sutter got on the board in the bottom of the first when junior Nathan Ahlers belted a home run that carried well over the 370-foot sign in left-center to give the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
The game was tightly contested after that, but time and time again, Cryer made the right pitch and Sutter came through with defensive plays behind him to keep the shutout intact.
"I was just trying to stay as calm as possible and do what I did all season," said Cryer, who fired seven complete games this year. "We have the greatest defense in the world and I knew they had my back. I was just trying to hit my spots and let the defense do their thing."
There were several nice defensive plays, but the gem of the day came in the top of the third when Yreka's Cody Hoff smashed a liner to Mat Sanders at third base. Sanders made a great diving stop to keep the ball in the infield, and then outdid himself by throwing the ball from the seat of his pants across the diamond to get Hoff out by two steps at first.
The Huskies nursed their one-run lead before breaking the game open by scoring four runs in the sixth. Ahlers singled and came into score on a base hit by Quentin Hick to start the rally. Sutter added another run on an error before Caleb Parker put the game out of reach by smoking a two-run double into the gap in left.
Cryer could smell the finish line after that and pitched his best inning in the seventh. After failing to record a strikeout all game long, Cryer fanned two batters in the final frame before getting a flyout to Jason Suleski in center on his 94th pitch to end the ballgame.
"He has great composure and nothing seems to bother him," Renfree said of his junior ace. "He stayed focused and played through adversity, and that's typical of his demeanor."
Leading the offensive charge for Sutter was Parker, who capped his high school career by going 4 for 4 with a double and a pair of RBIs. It was the perfect ending for the Huskies' senior leader, who missed nearly all of last year with a knee injury as Sutter made it all the way to the section championship game before eventually falling to Central Valley.
"This is what we set out to do from day one. Last year, we didn't get the win, so this year we wanted to get back and win it," Parker said. "I'm blessed to be out here. I couldn't feel any better. What a way to go out as seniors."
Ahlers finished the day 2 for 3 with the long home run and Hick went 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI for the Huskies, which will return 12 of their 17 players next season, including each one of their pitchers.
"We pretty much worked together all season long," Parker added. "We were going to do anything we could to help Lucas and get the win today."
CONTACT Andy Arrenquin at email@example.com or 749-4790. Find him on Facebook at advarsitysports or on Twitter at @ADaarrenquin