Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - March 25, 2011

Pitching efforts keep Menlo, Palo Alto on top

Despite a week of bad weather, Knights and Vikings manage to post victories and keep impressive baseball seasons on track

by Keith Peters

While the weather was the real winner this week, the Menlo School ad Palo Alto baseball teams didn't let the elements overcome them. Instead, both squads took advantage of brief windows of clear skies and used some strong pitching to post impressive victories.

In a showdown between two defending section champions, Central Coast Section Division III champ Menlo handed North Coast Section Division V champ Redwood Christian a 7-0 nonleague loss in Atherton. The Knights improved to 8-1 as starter Freddy Avis pitched five shutout innings, allowed only two hits while striking out six.

After playing an epic 13-inning game last year that featured current Stanford pitcher AJ Vanegas throwing seven shutout innings before Menlo's Dylan Mayer hit a walk off homer to win it, this one was over early as the Knights scored three in the first and then three more in the second and never looked back.

The Knights once again were led by senior Jake Bruml, who had two hits and two RBI, but the key hit was by senior shortstop Tim Benton, who knocked in the first two runs with a clutch two-out, two-strike hit in the first inning.

Palo Alto, meanwhile, moved its Wednesday game up a day and junior Ben Sneider came up with his best pitching performance of the season, issuing just one hit during an 8-0 complete-game baseball victory over visiting Homestead in SCVAL De Anza Division action on Tuesday.

The Vikings (5-0, 8-3) took over sole possession of first place by banging out 13 hits. Ozzie Braff, Cory Tenanes, Christoph Bono, Will Glazier and Drake Swezey all had a pair of hits while T.J. Braff drove in three runs to support Sneider's excellent pitching, which included six strikeouts.

Palo Alto holds a one-game lead over Wilcox, Los Altos and Homestead. All are 3-1 after being rained out last Friday. The Vikings have an extra game after moving their Friday game against Cupertino up a day last week. Palo Alto has outscored division opponents 53-3 in five games.

In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn suffered its first setback in division play in an 8-6 loss to host Santa Clara on Tuesday night at Washington Park. The Titans (2-1, 4-4-1) grabbed a 2-0 lead after two innings before the Bruins tied it in the third. Gunn went ahead 4-2 in the top of the fifth, but Santa Clara scored five times in the bottom of the inning for the eventual winning runs.

In the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton also moved up its opener but suffered a 4-3 loss to host Sequoia on Tuesday in 10 innings. The Bears (0-1, 5-3) out-hit the Cherokees, 13-7.

Sequoia scored first in the fourth inning after loading the bases with one out. Only one runner scored, however, leaving three on base after a single. The Bears answered in the top of the fifth with consecutive singles by Nick Lange, Kyle Zirbes, Dylan Cook and Myles Brewer plating two runs.

M-A starter Nick Lange retired six of the next seven Sequoia batters were retired until the bottom of the seventh when the Cherokees struck back with two runs on a hit batter, a single, a wild pitch, a ground ball and a squeeze bunt. Lange left the game after allowing six hits, one walk while striking out six. Ryan Cortez took over, pitching two scoreless innings and giving his team three chances to score.

Casey Eason led off the M-A ninth with a double, but was stranded. In the top of the 10th, Cortez got aboard on a bunt single but was erased at second on a broken play. Sequoia capitalized on a leadoff walk followed by a walk-off double.

Boys' golf

Despite playing in soggy conditions, Sacred Heart Prep produced a 196-225 victory over host King's Academy in a West Bay Athletic League dual match on Wednesday at Sunnyvale Municipal. SHP junior Kevin Knox earned medalist honors with a 2-over-par 37 on a cool, breezy afternoon. Teammates Ricky Galliani and Taylor Oliver each shot 40 as the Gators improved to 4-1 in league (5-1 overall).

On Monday, Stanford-bound senior Patrick Grimes of Menlo School shot a 1-under-par 70 to earn medalist honors at the Marin Catholic Wildcat Invitational at the Meadow Club in Fairfax. The finish by Grimes helped the Knights finish fourth in the team race with 393 strokes. Foothill of Pleasanton won the title with a 381.

Menlo sophomore Andrew Buchanan finished third overall with a 1-over 72 as he carded five birdies, while senior Bobby Pender shot 81, junior Will Petit had an 83 and junior Jackson Dean carded an 86. The tournament is one of the largest in Northern California, with more than 100 golfers competing.

Also on Monday, Vincent Yang shot a 1-over-par 37 to pace Gunn to a 202-212 victory over Palo Alto in a SCVAL De Anza Division dual match at Palo Alto Municipal. Herbert Sadler-Wong added a 39 for the Titans (4-0-1), who handed the Vikings (4-1) their first loss of the season despite a 38 from Sam Niethammer and a 39 by Grant Raffel.

Boys' lacrosse

Palo Alto and Mountain View came into Wednesday night's league game on Paly's turf field with momentum and an eye on this year's SCVAL championship. The Vikings boasted a 4-0 record and last year's overtime victory against the Spartans in the title game. Mountain View was riding its own four-game winning streak, one that included a hard-fought 8-5 victory last week over perennial powerhouse Menlo.

After almost 48 minutes of tough, physical play with five lead changes and intermittent rain, the Spartans led 10-9 — but the Vikings had the ball and a timeout before the final 24 seconds. Coach Craig Conover's squad couldn't recreate the last-minute magic that characterized its title run last season, however, and the Spartans came away with the win and an impressive 4-0 record and early season league lead. Palo Alto falls to 2-1 in league (4-1 overall).

Paly was led by Kevin Proceviat, whose dodging and weaving resulted in four goals and one assist, and Zach Spain, who tallied three goals and one assist from his attack position. Midfielder John Brunett contributed a goal and an assist while dominating face-offs for the Vikings (winning 14 of 20). Paly goalie Josh Chin should also be commended for solid play that included some improbable saves late in the game.

In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Noah Kawasaki and Sean Mayle each scored three goals and Brian White contributed four assists as Sacred Heart Prep posted a 12-4 victory over visiting Priory on Wednesday. The Gators remained atop the division at 4-0 while improving to 7-3 overall. Frankie Hattler added two goals for Sacred Heart.

Softball

Palo Alto evened its record in the SCVAL De Anza Division with a 4-0 victory over host Fremont on Tuesday in Sunnyvale. The Vikings (1-1, 2-5) jumped out to 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, with timely hitting by Gracie Marshall and Hannah Bundy. The Vikings tallied another run in the third inning when Anna Gale singled and was driven in by Bundy, her second RBI of the day.

The Vikings capped off their scoring with two more runs in the fifth, highlighted by Anna Rizza's single and Maya Padilla's RBI double. Stafford shut out Fremont over seven innings and limited the Firebirds (0-2, 1-5) to two hits.

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