You ‘Du’ you, Pete: Caston sophomore hits walk-off homer, earns complete game win vs. North White
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
FULTON — Pete DuVall’s hitting upstaged Pete DuVall’s pitching in the Caston baseball team’s game against North White Saturday.
If it wasn’t impressive enough that he escaped a two-on-and-nobody-out jam in the top of the seventh as a pitcher, he then hit a walk-off homer in the bottom half to lift the Comets past the Vikings 3-2 in a Class 1A, Sectional 52 semifinal at Caston Saturday.
Caston improved to 18-6 and will play North Miami in the sectional final at 1 p.m. Monday. North Miami knocked off Southwood 10-6 in Saturday’s second semifinal.
North White finished 7-13.
DuVall said afterwards that he never tries to hit a homer. He’s there to put the ball in play.
“I was just going for a base hit and move it on to Joey (Spin), who’s our best hitter through his average and just trying to do what was good for the team, and it just sailed,” DuVall said.
Jackson Rentschler drove in the other two Caston runs with a first-inning triple to deep right-center.
But North White would rally from a 2-0 deficit to tie it, and they got the first two men on in the seventh.
Jeffrey Stevens led off with an infield single. Kade DeBoard then laid down a bunt. DuVall pounced on it and was prepared to make a throw, but nobody was covering first.
DuVall had to hang on to the ball, and North White had runners on first and second with nobody out.
But DuVall got Morgun Sloan on a pop to Rentschler at first and struck out Eli Stearns and Bentley Buschman with curves.
“I was a little upset because we work on that all the time in practice, but I knew my guys were going to be there the next time when it happens,” DuVall said of overcoming the team miscue on the bunt play.
Then came the bottom of the seventh.
With one out, DuVall sent a high fly to left that he tucked inside the foul pole and just over the wall against North White senior pitcher Caleb Orr.
Caston coach Blake Mollenkopf leaped out of his third base coach’s box and raised his arms. DuVall’s teammates were there to mob him at home plate.
It was just Caston’s fourth homer of the season as a team, but it was DuVall’s third.
“That was a great swing,” Caston coach Blake Mollenkopf said. “Credit to Pete. It’s great for the kids, and we survive and advance, I guess. Because we weren’t as good as we can be today, but North White was much improved and a very good team today.”
Caston is undefeated when DuVall pitches this season. Perhaps more of a power pitcher than Joey Spin, who was the winning pitcher in the quarterfinals against West Central, DuVall combines a fastball and a hard-breaking curve. He said he’s been throwing the curve since Little League but added that it’s come more into play since his freshman season in 2021.
“I know I can throw the ball, and I guess it’s just something that comes naturally,” DuVall said.
In the bottom of the first, Talon Zeider walked leading off but was caught stealing second. DuVall then reached on a bloop single, and Spin walked. Sam Smith flew out to center for the second out, but Rentschler launched a fly to deep right-center that bounced up against the wall. DuVall and Spin, both running on contact with two outs, scored.
“He’s had big hit after big hit after big hit,” Mollenkopf said of Rentschler.
Orr, who mixed slow curve balls with even slower curve balls – Mollenkopf called some of Orr’s offerings “eephus” pitches, a reference to a pitch popularized by Rip Sewell of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the early 1940s – blanked Caston over the next five innings. The Comets left six on base in those innings.
Eli Quasebarth led off the fourth with a single and went to second on Alex Kneadler’s sacrifice bunt. Caleb Orr’s grounder to second was booted for an error, allowing Quasebarth to score.
In the sixth, Kneadler reached second on an error with two outs and scored when Orr cracked a double.
But a heads-up Spin helped avert further damage. C.J. Hunt hit a grounder that deflected off Zeider at third but deflected right to Spin at shortstop, who chased down courtesy runner Isaiah Denton and tagged him for the third out trying for third.
Orr retired the side in order in the bottom of the sixth.
The game was going to come down to the final inning.
“He has baseball moxie,” Mollenkopf said of DuVall. “His heart doesn’t start pumping real fast when things are not going well. He actually started the game with three high fastballs, and that’s the first time I’ve ever seen him have over-adrenaline really in his baseball career since 8 years old. But he settled in, and the moment isn't too big for him, and that’s the kind of players we have.”
Caston 3, North White 2
North White 000 101 0 – 2 5 1
Caston 200 000 1 – 3 7 2
WP – Pete DuVall (7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K)
LP – Caleb Orr (6 ⅓ IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K)
2B – Caleb Orr (NW)
3B – Jackson Rentschler (CAS)
HR – Pete DuVall (CAS)