HEMET ---- Tim Borst has had plenty of big moments since transferring to Tahquitz as a sophomore. Some of his biggest came on Thursday afternoon.
The Fresno State-bound senior homered in the first inning and recorded the last six outs ---- three on a triple-play ---- and the Titans clinched a share of the Mountain Pass League title and the circuit's No. 1 seed with a 6-3 victory over Hemet in front of a tightly-packed crowd at Tahquitz High.
"He has shown up big in big moments at big times," Titans coach Ron Savage said after winning the three-game series against the cross-town rival Bulldogs. "He always rises to the occasion. These are kids, and this kid could have taken this a different direction after the game the other day. He was frustrated. When he takes that rubber, he expects big things, and he had a rough day (Tuesday).
"Then, first at-bat ---- home run. He put it behind him very, very quickly and went about his business."
Borst's business on Tuesday called for the right-hander to pitch seven innings in a 3-1 loss to Hemet. Things did not go well.
On Thursday, Borst deemed his arm ready for relief duty. He had a 5-3 lead to protect when he entered the game thanks to his third homer of the year, run-scoring hits from Michael Stewart and Jarrett Veiga and five quality innings from sophomore Jesus Garcia, who allowed a run on two hits and three walks in his first start of the season.
Then, when Hemet scratched together a pair of runs off reliever Ben Moreno in the top of the sixth inning on a walk, hit and an error, Borst signaled to Savage that he wanted the ball.
With runners on first and second and no outs in the inning, Savage obliged.
"As soon as we got into that jam, he whistled toward the dugout and wanted to come in," Savage said. "He came in and shut the door. That's why he's been an outstanding piece of our program."
Of course, fortune was on Borst's side. Pinch-hitter Yeager Taylor lined sharply to second baseman Adrian Preciado, who snagged the drive, stepped on second base for another out and threw to first to complete the triple-play.
"You can't ask for a triple play," said Borst, who later retired three of the four batters he faced in the seventh for the save. "Luckily, it was hit right at my guy and we knew what to do with it and took advantage of them taking off on the pitch.
"It was a big momentum boost for us."
Hemet coach Mike Arnold could only shrug. The Titans (16-9, 12-3) also recorded an inning-ending double play on a drive off the bat of Hemet's Nathan Bagby in the fifth inning.
"We seemed to tighten up," said Arnold, whose Bulldogs (14-12, 12-3) committed three early errors that helped snap a 10-game winning streak. "We had our chances later in the game and we hit the ball hard. Give it to them. They turned a triple play and a double play on us on line-drive shots that were hit real hard."
The action, though, didn't stop there. Both teams appeared to chirp at each other after the momentum-swinging triple-play to end the top of the sixth inning, with the plate umpire warning both dugouts between the inning. Savage and Arnold also spoke heatedly while nose-to-nose at home plate.
Later, both downplayed an exchange that did not result in any disciplinary action from the umpires.
"Heat of the battle," said Arnold, whose program has shared the league title with the Titans the last two years.
Added Savage: "Mike runs a good program and they are a great team. When you have kids who have grown up together, moms and dads who have grown up together, they know what's at stake. Heat of the moment and things got out of hand.
"I applaud the umps of doing a great job of calming it down immediately."
Tahquitz added insurance a half-inning later on Vega's run-scoring double and Borst struck out two batters in the seventh to send the Titans into the postseason on a high note.
"To win this game going to playoffs is a huge lift and a momentum-builder," Savage said. "We played really, really well across the board. I feel very confident going into the first round of the playoffs next week."