Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 17, 2013

Local baseball trio advances in CCS playoffs

Palo Alto, Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep take on tough foes in the quarterfinals on Saturday

by Andrew Preimesberger

The first round of the Central Coast Section baseball playoffs is complete. Now, things get much more difficult for the local survivors.

That group includes Palo Alto, Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep. Menlo-Atherton fell by the wayside following a 3-2 loss to San Benito in Division I action Wednesday.

Paly, Menlo and SHP will take a combined 61-61 record all-time in the postseason against opponents with a combined mark of 122-65 with 10 section titles. The level of competition will be higher as the Vikings, Knights and Gators take underdog roles into the quarterfinals on Saturday.

Fifth-seeded Palo Alto (17-15) will face No. 4 Bellarmine (25-6). Fifth-seeded Menlo (20-7) will take on No. 4 Soquel (17-11-2) and No. 7 Sacred Heart Prep (19-9) tangles with No. 2 Pacific Grove (28-0), the defending CCS Division III champion.

Times and sites were announced late Thursday night. Division III semifinals will be Tuesday with Division I semis set for Wednesday, all at San Jose Municipal Stadium. Championship games will be Saturday, May 25, at Muni.

All three local teams advanced in varying fashion on Wednesday.

At Palo Alto, junior second baseman Bowen Gerould had three hits and four RBI to lead Palo Alto to a 12-4 victory over No. 12 Watsonville that ended a four-game losing streak.

"We've overachieved this year," said Paly head coach Erick Raich. "We've had some guys not play their normal positions but battle through it. Hopefully, we finish out the season on our 'A' game."

The Wildcats (16-10) jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Vikings' third baseman Jack Cleasby made an error on Dimitrio Navarro's ground ball that allowed two runners to score.

But Palo Alto responded immediately in the second inning when senior Michael Strong ripped a bases-clearing double to put the Vikings up 4-2.

"We did a great job with runners in scoring position today," said Raich. "Offensively, we haven't had too many issues. We can swing it but that's not what wins championships —pitching and defense does."

The bats stayed hot for Paly in the fourth inning when senior Austin Poore drilled a lead-off triple to start a rally that eventually gave the Vikings an 8-4 lead.

"I got a fastball up in the zone and turned on it," said Poore, who plans to attend Stanford University in the fall.

Junior pitcher Danny Erlich shut the door for the Vikings in the fourth and fifth innings, fanning three and allowing no hits.

Paly's offense then erupted in the sixth inning when Gerould roped a two-run double into the left-center gap, all but wrapping up the win. Gerould, who hit .269 for the season, had his second three-hit game of the year.

"I was seeing the ball well today," said Gerould. "I was just watching it in. I had a new approach, and I was just trying to stick with that through the game."

"Hopefully we can use this game to get back on track and make a run in CCS," said Poore, who finished with three hits.

The Division I quarterfinals will feature four West Catholic Athletic League teams after Serra, Mitty and St. Francis all advanced Wednesday.

In another Division I opener, No. 14 seed Menlo-Atherton (17-11) gave No. 3 San Benito (22-6) all it could handle before dropping a 3-2 decision.

M-A ace Erik Amundson took a no-hitter into the bottom of the sixth before giving up back-to-back homers to wipe out a 2-1 lead.

Brett Moriarity gave the Bears hope in the top of the seventh when he singled and took second on a sacrifice bunt. Paul DeTrempe ran for Moriarity, but was thrown out at the plate after a single to left by Charlie Cain. A flyout then ended the Bears' season.

Division III

In a battle between two of the more successful schools in CCS baseball history, Menlo walked off with a 3-2 victory over No. 12 Carmel in a first-round contest in Atherton. The Knights and Padres have won a combined 78 section games.

Carmel notched a run in the first on a lead-off single by Joe Bifano, who was sacrificed to second and then advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on a ground out.

The Knights answered with two unearned runs of their own in the bottom half of the first when Mikey Diekroeger led off with a single, Austin Marcus walked and then sacrifice bunt that was misplayed left the bases loaded.

Adam Greenstein then grounded to third, but the throw home was high to tie the score. After a fly out, Graham Stratford hit a grounder to short, but was quick enough to beat the relay to first and the second run scored.

The game remained that way until the sixth as both pitchers were dominate, throwing nothing but strikes as the game took only 1:23 to play.

In the top of the sixth, the Padres' No. 9 hitter ripped a 1-2 pitch over the left-field fence to tie the game. In the bottom of the seventh, Sam Crowder led off with a double. Jared Lucian then bunted down the third-base line with Crowder easily beating the throw to third. Joe Farnham was intentionally walked to load the bases. That set the stage for Diekroeger, who on a 3-2 pitch singled to right to give the Knights the walk-off win.

The win went to senior Jack Redman, who threw a complete game while allowing only five hits and striking out four with no walks.

At Sacred Heart Prep, the Gators got a complete-game five-hitter from Tyler VauDell and two hits from Mike Covell in a 4-1 triumph over No. 10 Live Oak (14-13).

VauDell struck out five and walked just two, but fell behind 1-0 after the top of the first. The Gators bounced back quickly as Cole March walked and Covell singled. With runners at the first and third, March scored on a throwing error and Covell came home on a fielder's choice.

In the second, March scored on a balk and Brett Byrne made it 4-1 on a wild pitch.

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