BOSWELL - Everett coach Mike Kline was in an unenviable position during the bottom of the seventh inning against North Star in Tuesday's District 5 Class AA baseball semifinal playoff game.
With the score knotted at 2-2, the Cougars had runners on second and third with one out and their top slugger, Tony Strasiser, at the plate.
Kline decided it was time to pull starter Kyle Droz, who turned in 6 1/3 innings of stellar pitching. Kline brought in Dylan Foor, and despite first base being open, elected to pitch to Strasiser.
The 6-foot-6 center fielder made the Warriors pay, smacking the first pitch he saw into right field for a single, scoring Josh Bloom from third, to give North Star a narrow 3-2 victory and a spot in next week's District 5-AA title game.
"Strasiser had hit [Droz] hard and his pitch count was getting up a little bit," Kline said. "My intention was to not throw [Strasiser] anything, at all. My catcher said it was a good outside pitch, that [Strasiser] just slapped it out there. I have to give Strasiser credit for that.
"I didn't want to give him anything, and I thought we could get him chasing something, which I guess we did, but he got the job done. We would have put him on, but I didn't want to do that immediately, bringing [Foor] in with the bases loaded and the pressure of a walk winning the game.
"So I thought if we got [Strasiser] going after something, maybe got a pop up or something, get two balls on him and put him on. Let [Foor] get a couple pitches under his belt. It didn't work out that way."
North Star had only four hits all game, and two of them came in the bottom of the seventh. No. 9 hitter Josh Bloom led off the inning with a double down the left-field line. Leadoff man Tanner Revak received an intentional walk and Brantley Rice laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt - his third of the game - to put both runners in scoring position. That brought up Strasiser, who came through with the game-winning hit.
"Honestly, I thought they were going to walk me there, but I was happy to see that they weren't going to," Strasiser said. "I was looking for a curveball with first base open, but got a fastball and I was late on it. It ended up working out."
Strasiser agreed that the pitch was out of the strike zone.
"It was way outside, but I wasn't going to sit around and get behind in the count and have it end up two outs," he said. "We had that situation earlier in the game. I just wanted to get it over with."
Droz gave up only two hits while striking out four, walking six and hitting a batter through 6 1/3 innings of work.
Everett went up 1-0 in the top of the first when Anthony Johnson led off with a single, stole second and later scored on an errant pickoff attempt at third.
North Star (16-4) will face the winner of today's other semifinal - No. 4 Windber at No. 1 Bedford - in next week's 5-AA championship game.
Everett ended its season with a record of 14-2.