In the postseason, when a team's margin for error is slim, Trevor Kirk wants to be in the middle of pressure situations.
"There's nothing like the playoffs," the College of Southern Nevada sophomore said. "You've got to win. We were talking about it today and saying, 'We've got to refuse to lose,' and that's what we did."
Kirk made the biggest plays Friday to lift the Coyotes to a 6-5 victory over Salt Lake in the NJCAA Region 18 Baseball Tournament semifinals at Morse Stadium.
CSN (45-13) will face Western Nevada in the championship round of the double-elimination tournament at noon today. If Western Nevada (42-16) wins, the teams will play again 30 minutes after the first game.
Western Nevada defeated the College of Southern Idaho 3-2 before posting a 4-3 comeback victory over Salt Lake in the semifinals.
"You don't want to fall into the losers' bracket," Coyotes coach Tim Chambers said. "It's tough to come back."
Kirk made certain top-seeded CSN stayed in the top half of the bracket. His two-run single in the eighth inning snapped a 4-all tie. That hit set him up to be the hero, but he wasn't done.
The Bruins rallied in the top of the ninth, when Kyle Bilbrey doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs. Chambers called on closer Aaron Kurcz to replace left-hander Bryan Harper.
Kurcz struck out Duncan Blades. The next batter, Zackary Swasey, grounded a shot to third baseman Gabe Weidenaar, who handled a tough hop and threw to first for the second out, allowing a run to score.
Salt Lake's Scott Shipley then hit a sinking line drive to right field, and it briefly appeared he would drive in the tying run. But Kirk charged and made a diving catch to dramatically end the game.
"I busted my ass in and did sort of a barrel-roll catch," said Kirk, who was mobbed by his teammates. "I wasn't letting that thing fall. There was no way."
Harper, who threw three innings in relief of starter Joe Robinson, got the win to improve to 9-1. Kurcz got his 10th save.
Kirk, from Silverado High School, finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs. He tied the game with an RBI double in the third inning and put the Coyotes ahead 4-3 by scoring on Marvin Campbell's triple.
Kirk recently returned from a high right ankle sprain that forced him to miss six weeks.
"Trevor is really important to us," Chambers said. "I'm really close with him as a player-coach kind of relationship because he just does everything right."
CSN freshman Bryce Harper went 4-for-4 and scored twice. After Weidenaar singled to lead off the eighth, Harper doubled down the right-field line to put two runners in scoring position. Kirk delivered with a line drive to left.
"We were talking about it in the dugout, and I told Gabe, 'If you get on, we're scoring,' " Kirk said. "I just waited for my pitch and put a good swing on it."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.