Koster, Rago pace Cadets comeback

By on June 3, 2019

First baseman Tyler Koster drove in five runs and junior Nick Rago tossed four-plus innings in relief to allow Hilton to come back from an early 5-0 deficit and defeat Victor in the Section V Class AA baseball quarterfinals.

Victor used two walks, three hit batsmen, two wild pitches and just two hits to plate five runs in the top of the second inning against a pair of Hilton hurlers.

That’s when Rago, who was just cleared by doctors last week and hadn’t pitched in over three weeks due to a concussion, entered the game to begin the third inning and changed momentum with a one-two-three inning.

“I was a little nervous, but I’ve done this before so I just trusted my infielders and outfielders and threw strikes,” Rago said. “I had faith because we’ve hit when we needed to all year, so I knew we would take care of business.”

The comeback began in the third as Alex Noto reached on a fielder’s choice, third baseman Drew HerrNeckar walked and Gavin Moore loaded the bases with an infield single. That set the table for Koster to stroke a two-RBI single to cut the Victor lead to 5-2.

“I knew we had to get it going, so I was ready to be up in that spot,” Koster said. “Then I came up confident after that first hit knowing we beat Victor twice this season already and we weren’t going to give up.”

Hilton then exploded for six runs in the fourth inning – five coming with two outs. Tyler Cerame was hit by a pitch to lead off the frame and advanced to third on Jackson DiPalma’s infield single and a throwing error. Cerame scored on a wild pitch with catcher Kyle Douglas laying down a bunt single and Jason Story getting hit by a pitch to load the bases. Moore drew a two-out RBI walk scoring DiPalma and Koster drove in Douglas on a controversial fielder’s choice play that Victor claimed hit the base runner. An RBI walk to Josh Battaglia and a clutch two-RBI single by Cerame in his second plate appearance of the inning gave the Cadets an 8-5 lead.

Victor got one run back in their half of the fifth, but the Cadets plated three more in their half of the inning. Douglas laced a one-out double to center field and advanced to third as Noto reached base on an error by the pitcher. Story drove in one run with an RBI single and, after a walk to HerrNeckar loaded the bases, Koster came through again with a two-RBI single to right field giving Hilton a five-run cushion.

Rago meanwhile pitched out of trouble in the fourth, allowed one run in the fifth and ended a Victor rally in the sixth inning with a third-out called strike three on a perfectly placed curve ball. He yielded to Dylan Boprey with one out in the seventh.

“When you have a group that believes they can win and are unselfish, you can beat anyone,” Hilton head coach Jeff Murphy said. “Unity and togetherness got us a lot of wins this year and today is a perfect example.”

Hilton advanced to the semi-finals against top-seed McQuaid.