Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 19, 2010

It was perfection times two

Castilleja's Albanese, Paly's Jenks both throw perfect games on same afternoon

by Keith Peters

Sammy Albanese of Castilleja and Kelly Jenks of Palo Alto High have a lot in common. Both are seniors. Both pitch. Both are the aces of their respective softball teams.

Both are headed to college with scholarships next fall — Albanese to Northwestern and Jenks to Santa Clara (for soccer). Their home fields are less than a mile apart and, on Tuesday, both accomplished something on those fields that is rare to the sport.

Both pitched perfect games.

Jenks struck out 14 in a 5-0 nonleague victory over visiting Woodside. Albanese fanned 18 in a 2-0 nonleague win over Gunn.

Albanese took only 70 minutes to mow down the Titans while Jenks took just a little longer to dispose of the Wildcats. For Albanese, it was her third no-hitter this season. For Jenks, it was her first-ever perfect game.

"I never try to pitch a perfect game," Albanese said after striking out the side in the top of the seventh. "But, it's a nice bonus."

Albanese has pitched perfect games before — she reportedly has 13 in her career. She has struck out more, as well. She even pitched what amounted to two full games last year, a 14-inning effort with 37 strikeouts that landed her in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd.".

Thus, Tuesday's no-hit perfection was just another gem in what has become a sparkling resume for the Northwestern-bound Albanese, who did her best to keep the perfect game out of her head.

"I try to keep it out of my mind," she said. "I'm superstitious."

A black cat could have crossed her path on Tuesday and she could have shattered a mirror, or walked under a ladder. None of that would have mattered as Albanese mowed down the Titans (5-2-1) with precision.

Albanese struck out the side in the first four innings and fanned the first two hitters in the top of the fifth before Gunn freshman Casey Maltz grounded out for the first non-strikeout of the game. In the sixth, Gunn freshman Nikki Schwardt popped out to Castilleja catcher Annie Apffel and sophomore Claire Collins grounded out to first baseman Annie Cardinal. That was it for Gunn as far as getting the bat on the ball.

The rest was all Albanese (4-1-1), who now has 120 strikeouts.

"She's the real deal," said Castilleja first-year coach Robert Burley.

Not only did Albanese star on the mound, but she manufactured the winning run. With two out in the fourth, Albanese singled, reached second on a passed ball and stole third. Noticing that Gunn catcher Carly Fisher was returning throws to pitcher Claire Klausner very quickly, Albanese timed a delayed steal perfectly and scored.

"If it's a 0-0 game, I'm going to try to get into scoring position," Albanese said. "It was two outs, two strikes . . . I might as well try."

Burley said there was no doubt, after watching how the ball was being returned to Klausner, that Albanese was going to be sent home.

With the game all but wrapped up, Albanese gave herself a cushion when she drove in Aryana Yee with a sacrifice fly to right in the sixth. Yee had walked and moved up on an infield single by Ginna Freehling.

Castilleja's win ruined the return of Klausner, who started her career at Castilleja. She was a Gator from the sixth to eighth grade before transferring to Gunn. Klausner struck out eight on Tuesday.

"It's unfortunate she didn't say," Albanese said. "We tried to keep her . . . she's a great pitcher and has a bright future."

Which is what they used to say about Albanese — and still do.

Less than a mile away, Jenks was taking a bit longer to accomplish what Albanese did in about 70 minutes. For Jenks, the wait was well worth it.

"I felt really comfortable the whole time," Jenks said of the experience. "My curve was working well, as was my rise and knuckleball (changeup). Until the fifth inning I wasn't thinking about it. In the sixth inning, it started to come into my mind a little bit."

Jenks was in control throughout, going to a 3-2 count only once — to the second batter in the top of the seventh.

And when it was over?

"I was excited," Jenks admitted. "And kind of surprised."

Paly used stolen bases early to jump to a 2-0 lead. Junior Grace Stafford walked in the first inning and stole two bases, including home, to post the first run. Sophomore Caitlin Tirador repeated that feat — earning a walk and stealing two bases, including home, for a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Palo Alto had seven stolen bases in the game.

Palo Alto's bats came alive in the sixth as the Vikings collected five hits on their way to a three-run inning. Senior Caroline McDonnell had the big hit, a triple, to drive in a run. She also had a triple in the fourth inning. Jenks and senior Kristen Dauler also delivered RBI hits. For Paly, junior Mariah Philips had two hits, including a double.

Paly's first-year coach Tim Anderson actually was more impressed with how his offense, which has been struggling of late, came together.

"Kelly's going to do her thing," Anderson said. "But, it's not a one-dimensional thing. We can't rely on one player."

Jenks didn't have a lot of time to enjoy her perfect game. She was back on the mound Wednesday to face visiting Branham in another nonleague game. While she wasn't perfect this time, she only allowed two hits and no runs for a third straight game as the Vikings (4-0) posted a 6-0 triumph.

Palo Alto's hitting continued to come around. In the first, Grace Marshall led off with a double and Stafford followed with a single. Lauren Bucolo drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly and Anna Gale laid down a bunt hit, scoring another run. Jenks followed with a hit and McDonnell drove in the third run of the inning.

That was all Palo Alto would need. In the fourth, McDonnell and Tirador both had hits and Dauler drove them in to extend the lead. The Vikings finished the scoring in the fifth as Stafford knocked her second run and Bucolo stroked a double to drive her in.

Jenks will be back on the mound Friday when Palo Alto visits Los Gatos to open the SCVAL De Anza Division season.

"The De Anza Division is tough," said Anderson, "so it's going to be a challenge. Kelly will hold her own and our defense is really sharp. I'm excited. This is a good team."

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