Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 16, 2014

Menlo boys take a shot at CCS tennis title

Knights seek their sixth straight and 13th overall against Saratoga

by Keith Peters

Hot weather couldn't stop the Menlo School boys tennis team on Wednesday, nor could Bellarmine Prep in the Central Coast Section Team Tournament semifinals.

It was 98 degrees in Los Gatos before the Knights wrapped up their 6-1 victory over the Bells at Courtside Club. Temperatures on the hardcourts probably felt higher.

Nothing, however, seems to faze Menlo in its annual march to the section finals. The top-seeded Knights (20-3) will play for a sixth straight CCS crown on Friday, taking on No. 2-seeded Saratoga (20-0) at Courtside Club at 1:30 p.m.

The teams should enjoy the forecast of 84-degree weather after battling extreme heat Wednesday.

The Falcons advanced by ending No. 3 Menlo-Atherton's fine run, 5-2, at the Los Gatos Swim & Racquet Club.

Menlo and Saratoga will be meeting for the first time this season and in the section title match for the third time in the past 10 years. The Knights prevailed in 2010 by a 4-3 count with the Falcons posting a 6-1 win in 2004.

Menlo will be gunning for its 13th overall CCS title. Should the Knights win their sixth straight crown, they will tie themselves (1998-2003), Monta Vista (1997-2002) and Palo Alto (1991-96) for the second-most in section history. Gunn won seven straight from 1972-78, a record within Menlo's grasp.

Menlo played without No. 1 singles player Victor Pham, who suffered a hip-flexor injury on Sunday and was relegated to doubles on Monday. The Knights also missed No. 2 singles player Lane Leschly, who was struck in the head by his surfboard recently and suffered concussion symptoms.

Even without those two, Menlo swept the singles behind David Ball (6-3, 6-1), Vikram Chari (6-1, 6-2), Gunther Matta (6-2, 6-1) and Nathan Safran (6-1, 6-2), the latter of whom normally plays at No. 1 doubles.

In the other semifinal, Menlo-Atherton and Saratoga battled extreme heat and each other in a match that could have gone either way.

After the first four matches were completed, all in straight sets, the score stood 2-2. At that point, the first three singles matches were split and headed to third sets. Saratoga prevailed by winning all three. M-A senior Scott Morris had three match points to win the second set at No. 1, but let the advantage slip away. He wound up losing, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Had Morris won, the outcome of the match would have been decided by No. 3 singles, which went to a third set and eventually won by Saratoga.

M-A took No. 1 doubles behind Saul Menjivar and Axel Brenner and No. 4 singles with freshman Casey Morris posting the win.

Baseball

Behind the stellar pitching of sophomore Davis Rich, who was making only his second start of the year, Menlo School advanced to the semifinals of the inaugural Peninsula Athletic League Tournament with a 5-4 victory over visiting Half Moon Bay on Wednesday.

Rich threw a complete game, allowing only one earned run on five hits while walking no one and striking out four. He needed only 80 pitches as Menlo improved to 15-12.

The game tied at 4 heading to the bottom of the seventh. After a lead-off walk to Carson Gampell, John Bergeson lined a two-out single off the fence in left field to score pinch-runner Michael Shames, who had advanced to second on a ground ball.

Also reaching the semifinals was Menlo-Atherton, which bounced Aragon with a 6-5 victory. Senior Lawson Joos' perfectly executed squeeze bunt scored two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to carry the Bears to victory.

After Aragon scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th, M-A (15-11-1) responded with a one-out rally to capture one of the most thrilling games of the season.

Matt DeTrempe got things started in the bottom of the 10th by earning a walk. Charlie Cain followed with a single to center (his second hit of the game), and both base runners moved into scoring position on a balk. Aragon chose to walk Erik Amundson intentionally, loading the bases with one out. Joos then laid down a textbook squeeze bunt, scoring DeTrempe to tie the game. Cain never hesitated in rounding third base and scored the winning run when Aragon threw to first base to record the out on Joos. The return throw home was too late to nab Cain at the plate.

Menlo and Menlo-Atherton needed victories on Thursday to reach Friday's championship game at Half Moon Bay at 4 p.m.

In the SCVAL De Anza Division playoffs, Palo Alto needed a victory at Saratoga on Thursday to force a winner-take-all championship game Friday on the Vikings' field at 4 p.m. On Tuesday, Paly (15-13) let a 3-0 lead get away and suffered an 8-4 loss to Saratoga.

Boys golf

Sacred Heart Prep may have seen its season end team-wise at the CCS Championships on Tuesday, but SHP junior Derek Ackerman still has at least one more tournament this season.

Ackerman, who shot an even-par 71 on the Rancho Canada Golf Club West Course and tied for fifth. That earned him a playoff and he made the most of his opportunity by winning the playoff on the second extra hole to advance to next week's NorCal Championships.

Ackerman chipped in from just off the green after flying a wedge shot. SHP senior Bradley Knox just missed the playoff after shooting a 1-over 72.

The Gators shot 387 as a team and needed to shoot 374 to tie Mitty for third and force a playoff for the final Nor

Cal team berth.

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