Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - April 19, 2013

Big win puts Paly into first

Vikings continue their success against Wilcox under Raich; SHP takes lead in WBAL

by Andrew Preimesberger

As long as Erick Raich has been head coach of the Palo Alto baseball team, his Vikings have been forever linked with Wilcox — whether during the regular season or postseason playoffs.

In Raich's first three seasons, Palo Alto has either needed to beat Wilcox to either win the SCVAL De Anza Division regular-season or playoff titles or advance to the finals.

Fortunately for Raich, his Vikings have been very successful in doing just that.

In 2010, Paly defeated Wilcox twice during the regular season and twice in the playoffs to win the overall division title. In 2011, Paly lost twice during the regular season, but went 2-1 in the playoffs to reach the finals. In 2012, the Vikings won both regular-season meetings and went 2-1 in the playoff semifinals while advancing.

How this season plays out is yet to be seen. Paly, however, is off to a good start following Wednesday's 8-5 win over the Chargers in Santa Clara. Raich is now 11-4 all-time against Wilcox.

More important, the Vikings' victory moved them into sole possession of first place in the De Anza Division as Paly moved to 9-2 in league (14-8 overall) while Wilcox fell to 8-3 (16-7).

Seniors Isaac Feldstein and Austin Poore combined for six hits and four RBI to lead Palo Alto, which snappped a rare three-game losing streak.

"That's big that we took first place," said Paly senior pitcher Rohit Ramkumar. "We just have to go for the sweep and put them (Wilcox) away so we can solidify ourselves at the top."

Feldstein took charge in the first inning when he roped a double into the left-center field gap, scoring senior Michael Strong from second base and giving the Vikings a 2-0 lead.

Paly junior pitcher Danny Erlich struggled to find the zone to start the game as he walked five out of the 10 batters he faced. The lefty went only 1 2/3 innings after being replaced by Ramkumar. Paly pitchers combined for nine walks in the game.

"You can't blame the umpires for the strike zone," said Raich. "We were inconsistent in locating and hitting our spots today."

In the third inning, Poore hit a towering solo home run to center field just out of the reach of the leaping center fielder, giving the Vikings a 3-1 advantage. The senior had a big game and went 3-for-5 including two RBI, bumping his average up to .354 on the season.

Feldstein came through again for Paly when he hit a line-drive double down the left-field line, bringing home Strong from second base, putting the Vikings up 6-3 in the sixth inning. Austin Kron also scored on a bases-loaded walk.

Jack Cleasby doubled in James Foug in the seventh to cap the Vikings' scoring.

Ramkumar (7-2) had a solid outing as he threw 5 1/3 innings with four strikeouts and held off Wilcox for the win.

"Rohit was good today," said Raich. "He showed us that he wants to be the guy to go to on the mound."

The Vikings will host the Chargers on Friday at 3:30 p.m., with a chance to grab a two-game lead.

"It's not over yet," said Raich, who improved to 98-28 in his fourth year at Paly. "Friday is a huge game for us; we need to start inching closer to that (CCS) playoff spot."

In the West Bay Athletic League, Sacred Heart Prep shocked defending champion and host Menlo School, 4-0, while grabbing sole possession of first place.

Tyler VauDell pitched a complete-game five-hitter with eight strikeouts while improving to 4-1, and Nick Sinchek had three hits for the Gators (3-0, 11-7) as head coach Gregg Franceschi won his 100th career game in his sixth season at SHP.

The win by the Gators ended a three-game losing streak to Menlo and gave Franceschi a 3-5 all-time mark against the Knights.

Sacred Heart Prep's last win came in the team's first meeting in 2011. Menlo, however, bounced back to win the second game as the Knights did in 2010. While the Gators have yet to sweep the Knights during Franceschi's tenure, Wednesday's victory was their first at Menlo.

"I hate to say that one game can make a bigger difference than another, but we played real well against a very good team, so that should give us the proof and confidence we need moving forward," Franceschi said. "We talk about being capable of playing like that, but yesterday showed us all we really can."

SHP sophomore Cole March is a big believer and delivered a big hit as he blasted a two-run homer in the top of the seventh on a 3-2 count with two out. It was his third homer of the season, all during league play.

March scored the first run in the first after lining a double to center. Mike Covell's liner to center was dropped for an error, with March holding at third. He scored moments later on Will Reilly's single.

Sinchek singled home Will Johnston in the fourth.

Mikey Diekroeger had two hits for the Knights (2-1, 12-7), but was thrown out trying to steal in the first. Menlo stranded a number of baserunners.

In the PAL Bay Division, visiting Capuchino was in a giving mood on Wednesday afternoon at Bettencourt Field, and Menlo-Atherton took full advantage of the visitors' generosity to defeat the Mustangs 9-2.

Eight errors, five walks, and two hit batters — combined with seven base hit hits by the Bears — proved too much to overcome for Capuchino as M-A won its second straight division contest. The Bears are now 13-7 overall and 3-4 in league play, while Capuchino fell to 8-10 and 2-5.

Starting pitcher Erik Amundson improved his season mark to 4-2, allowing two runs and three hits over the first four innings while striking out four. M-A received solid, scoreless relief pitching from sophomore AJ Lemons (two innings, three hits, two strikeouts) and junior Jordan Long (one inning, no hits, two strikeouts).

Senior catcher Charles Grose and junior third baseman Brett Moriarty each drove in two runs for the Bears, with shortstop Alex Aguiar, Long, and center fielder Charlie Cain also collecting RBI. Moriarty and Grose lead M-A in RBI with 17 and 13, respectively, this season.

Lemons paced M-A's offensive attack with a 2-for-4 performance that raised his season batting average to .389. Grose (double), Moriarty (also hitting .389 for the season), Josh Gabriel (.353 average in 17 at-bats this season), Long, and Lawson Joos also had base hits for the Bears.

M-A started quickly by scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning following a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and two Capuchino errors. The Bears extended their lead to 7-0 by scoring five times in the bottom of the third inning.

Moriarty and Lemons reached on back-to-back, one-out singles to left, and Gabriel walked to load the bases. Long's ground ball was misplayed by Capuchino, allowing one run to score. The Mustangs then committed an error on Cain's grounder to third, allowing two more runs to cross the plate. Grose drove in the final two runs of the inning with a scorching, line-drive double to right-center field.

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