Merced Volunteers stay alive thanks to lots of spaceships

BOZEMAN, MONT. -- Justin Koehler told Nick Bernardi that his change-up looked like a spaceship coming out of his hand.

The ball just seemed to pause in midair and then drop.

"The aliens are coming, the aliens are coming," Koehler said.Bernardi kept tossing spaceships all game long.

The Merced Volunteers left-hander pitched eight strong innings to lift his team to a 6-3 win over Boise to keep the Vols' World Series hopes alive Sunday night at the American Legion Northwest Regional tournament.

"I saw Boise play Saturday night and I noticed they are a real aggressive, fastball-hitting team," Bernardi said.

"I wanted to start the first three innings with my fastball and then go to my change-up.

"It felt like every other pitch I threw was a change-up."Bernardi held a Boise Gems team that had scored 35 runs on 41 hits through three tournament wins to just three runs on five hits.

Only one of the runs was earned as he also pitched around four Merced errors.

Bernardi struck out six and walked four.

Boise fell to still-remarkable 42-5 this summer.

"Nick was unbelievable," said teammate Tynan Pedretti. "He pitched as well as I have ever seen him pitch in the two or three years we've played together.

"He just knew they weren't going to hit anything he threw."Pedretti delivered the big offensive blow for the Vols (27-14) with a three-run homer off of Boise starter Andrew Shoemaker in the top of the fifth inning.

Pedretti knew it was gone as soon as he hit it.

"I did," he said. "Some of the guys were making fun of me because the ball barely went over the fence.

"Off the bat, the ball felt as good as any ball I've ever hit."The Volunteers reached Sunday's game with a 14-6 thumping of Bozeman, Mont., on Saturday.

Brock Pisacco, Daniel Benson and Dylan Floro all hit three-run homers.

Merced thus advances to today's semifinal game against Kennewick, Wash., at 3 p.m.

The winner will face Boise in the finals at 6 with a trip to Shelby, North Carolina and the World Series on the line.Stanford-bound lefty Brett Mooneyham likely will start against Kennewick.

Mooneyham told Vols coaches he could manage around 75 pitches today after throwing 116 on Thursday.

Dylan Floro would start the final if Merced advances."If Brett can show up and give us the 75 pitches, I like our chances," Merced coach Rollo Adams said.

"(Kennewick) hasn't seen that type of arm in this tournament."