By Andrew Preimesberger
Palo Alto Online Sports
Senior righthander Freddy Avis threw a complete game, struck out seven batters and allowed one earned run to lead Menlo to a 11-2 West Bay Athletic League win at cross-town rival Sacred Heart Prep on Friday.
The victory was Menlo's sixth in a row and kept it in first place at 8-0 (17-7), while clinching no worse than a tie for the league title. Sacred Heart Prep fell to 5-3 (14-10-1) and dropped to third in the division. The Knights can win the outright title by beating second-place King's Academy on Wednesday in Sunnyvale.
The Knights' offense started out strong in the first inning when it bunched three hits, one being a three-run home run by sophomore outfielder Will King. The towering drive led the way for the Knights as they went up 5-0 at the end of the first.
"I was deep into the count," King said. "I got one middle-in and drove it -- it felt great."
King came through again in the third inning with a double into the left-field corner and eventually scored to put the Knights up, 7-0. Menlo's bats were loud all day as they connected for10 hits -- including three extra-base hits.
The Gators' offense had no answer for Avis's dominant pitching. He blew his fastball regularly past batters, and his curveball was effective in two-strike counts. Avis's curveball finished four of his seven strikeouts.
"I knew our offense would come out swinging like last time," said Avis. "My job was to just pound the zone, throw strikes and let my teammates make plays on the field."
Sacred Heart senior pitcher Jack Larson was ineffective as he threw five innings, allowing eight earned runs and six walks. Both Gator hurlers couldn't hit the strike zone as they combined for seven walks and committed two wild pitches that turned into earned runs.
"We're on the bubble," said Sacred Heart Prep coach Gregg Franceschi. "All we can really worry about is taking care of our own business and hope things fall right for us in the end."
"We're just trying to stay sharp for CCS," said Avis. "We need to win the next two games and do our best to get ready."
In the PAL Bay Division, Burlingame pushed across four runs in the late innings to erase a 1-0 deficit and defeat host Menlo-Atherton, 4-1, in a key game on Friday. The Panthers (10-2, 17-6) opened up a two-game lead on the second-place Bears (8-4, 18-7) with only two regular-season games remaining this coming week, thus clinching no worse than a co-title by winning on Friday.
Tommy Caulfield scattered six hits over six innings for the Panthers, while Cody Johnson doubled and homered with 2 RBI. For M-A, Ryan Cortez allowed seven hits and took his second loss. Charles Grose had two hits and Nick Lange drove in the Bears' only run. Both teams played great defense with no errors on either side.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division playoffs, Palo Alto and Los Altos will meet in the deciding series next week after each won challenge games on Friday.
Los Altos (19-7) eliminated Saratoga, 9-5, while Palo Alto (24-4) knocked out Wilcox, 3-2, in the final games of best-of-three series. The Vikings won the regular-season title, thus the Eagles need to win next week's series in order to earn a share of the league title.
Palo Alto got a good effort from starter Kevin Kannappan (6-2), who got some late-inning help from Jack Witte, who struck out two in a scoreless seventh.
Witte also got the Vikings moving toward victory with a double in the first inning. A sacrifice bunt by Alec Wong's moved Witte to third and Christian Lonsky brought him home with a single.
Ozzie Braff opened the fourth inning with a triple and scored on a fielder's-choice grounder by Lonsky. Justin Grey singled in the fifth inning and scored on Witte's second double.