SP NCS baseball round 1

Heritage defeated Freedom 4-0 in the North Coast Section Baseball Championships - Division 1 in Brentwood, Calif., Tuesday, May 14, 2019. The sixth-seed Patriots will face third-seed Acalanes on Friday, May 17 at Acalanes in the quarterfinals. (Tony Kukulich/The Press)

Heritage High School sophomore pitcher Christian Machado was nervous taking the mound for his first playoff start Tuesday.

But he was probably the only one who could tell.

The lefty threw six shutout innings, and the Patriots offense broke through in the first and fourth innings to secure Heritage’s 4-0 win over Freedom High School in the first round of the North Coast Section baseball playoffs.

“I think our pitcher was working so hard they wanted to take the pressure off of him a little bit, which they ended up doing,” said Heritage head coach Kevin Brannan of his team’s hitters.

The sixth-seed Patriots (19-6) will travel to third-seed Acalanes (23-2) on May 17 at 5 p.m.

Heritage infielder Tom Rover (two for three at the plate) drove in two runs, scored another, and racked up two of the team’s five hits. Machado (1.70 ERA in 33 innings pitched this season) took care of the rest from the mound, scattering two hits and striking out six in his longest outing of the year.

“I was a little bit nervous, but once I got through that first inning, it was good,” said Machado, who struck out the side in the first inning.

Freedom junior pitcher Brian McBroom went the distance in a solid showing, surrendering three earned runs on five hits, a walk and striking out two. But a passed ball in the first and four fourth-inning hits, including a bunt, ended up grounding the 11th-seed Falcons, who finish the season 14-11.

Rover was the Falcons’ nemesis the whole game. He led off the bottom of the first with a double, and later scored on a passed ball to put the Patriots up 1-0. He also smacked a two-out single to center in the fourth, scoring Gavin Tonkel and Bryce Arana, extending Heritage’s lead to 4-0.

“I got the fastball down the middle and just went with it,” he said of his fourth-inning at-bat. “I kept with my swing and stayed through the ball.”

McBroom and the Falcons could have avoided Rover’s fourth-inning at-bat, but Ryan Troye slid under the catcher’s tag on Tonkel’s bunt, which put Heritage up 2-0 and brought the on-deck Rover to the plate.

“I think the bunt play was huge,” Brannan said. “It allowed us to get our top-of-the-order back up there.”

Freedom’s Colby Lane and Ryan McKinley were the lone Falcons to muster hits off the masterful Machado, but Freedom never advanced a runner beyond second base.

Heritage’s Ryan Jackson pitched a perfect seventh inning for the Patriots, striking out one to secure the victory.

Machado’s stellar outing was the longest of his varsity career, eclipsing a 4 1/3-inning outing against Liberty on April 30. His six strikeouts were one short of his career high of seven, which he achieved twice this season in outings against Liberty and Antioch.

Heritage now shifts its attention to third-seed Acalanes, who outlasted 14th-seed Dublin 1-0 in nine innings in the opening round.

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