Final tuneups for trio
heading into CCS playoffs
Palo Alto hoping to take a winning streak into postseason
while Menlo and SHP should have plenty of momentum
The Central Coast Section baseball players get under way next week and at least three local teams will be continuing their seasons — Palo Alto, Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep.
How all three finish up will be determined by Friday when the regular season ends. For Paly coach Erick Raich, he wouldn't mind wrapping things up a day early.
That was a possibility when the Vikings visited Wilcox in the second game of a best-of-three series to decide the outright championship in the SCVAL De Anza Division. Paly needed a victory to avoid playing the Chargers in a winner-take-all game on the Vikings' field Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Palo Alto moved to within a victory of clinching the outright title with a 5-4 victory over visiting Wilcox on Tuesday. The Vikings improved to 25-3 and kept their winning streak intact at 20 straight.
"This game was great for us to get ready for CCS," said Raich.
The Vikings are likely to receive the No. 1 seed for the CCS Division II playoffs no matter what happens in the series with Wilcox, which seemingly had control of Tuesday's game.
Palo Alto had no hits through four innings and trailed, 2-0, before exploding for four runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Vikings got their first run when Scott Witte's grounder to short was thrown away at first. Joc Pederson then blooped a single to left and Christian Bono walked to load the bases. Senior Wade Hauser singled in two runs and junior T.J. Braff singled in another for a 4-2 lead.
The Chargers rallied for two runs in the top of the sixth, but Paly got the winner in the bottom of the inning when Drake Swezey walked, moved to second when Witte also walked, and then stole third. The throw eluded the Wilcox third baseman and Swezey scored the winning run.
Raich said having Swezey steal was a no-brainer.
"I thought they were not going to pay attention to him (Swezey)," Raich explained. "That wasn't a steal to steal a base; that was a steal to put pressure on them. Worst-case scenario, we have Joc Pederson leading off the next inning."
Pederson was facing a 0-2 count and a left-handed relief pitcher. So, Raich figured why not. Swezey took off and the catcher's throw went into left field. Swezey raced home with the winning run.
Witte closed out Wilcox with two strikeouts and a groundout and Paly's winning streak was intact.
"We've won a lot of games late," Raich said. "We just get better as the game goes along."
Hauser had two of Paly's four hits and drove in two runs. He's batting .560 this season.
While Palo Alto was rallying to win, host Gunn saw its potential title hopes in the SCVAL El Camino Division disappear in a 2-1 loss to Milpitas. The Titans (8-6, 11-13-2) gave up two unearned runs in the first inning and couldn't make them up while losing their second straight after moving into a tie for first last week.
Gunn twice wasted scoring opportunities, once with the bases loaded and again with runners on first and third.
Menlo coach Craig Schoof will go after his 400th career victory on Friday when the Knights close their West Bay Athletic League season against host Crystal Springs at Sea Cloud Park in Foster City at 4 p.m. A victory will give Menlo (8-1, 20-6) a share of the league title, should co-leader Sacred Heart Prep also win on Friday.
Schoof will take a mark of 399-223-1 into the regular-season finale following an 11-0 romp over visiting King's Academy on Wednesday. The victory was the Knights' 20th of the season, the third straight year that Menlo has won at least 20 contests.
Sophomore lefthander Jake Batchelder (8-0) got the win as he lowered his ERA to 1.17. Three pitchers limited the visitors to just three hits.
Stanford-bound Danny Diekroeger had two hits, including a solo home run in the first inning that hit the scoreboard. Sophomore Dylan Mayer had three hits and raised his batting average in league play to .645 (20 for 31). Robert Wickers also contributed three hits to the Knights' 15-hit attack.
In another WBAL contest, Sacred Heart Prep celebrated its Senior Day with a 20-3 blasting of visiting Crystal Springs. The Gators (8-1, 14-11-1) had 19 hits, with senior Bryan Kohrs getting three while driving in seven runs. Ian Lynch contributed two hits and four RBI as John Geary (4-2) picked up the win. Sacred Heart Prep will close its regular season at Harker on Friday at 4 p.m.
In the PAL Bay Division, Half Moon Bay rallied from a 2-0 deficit, scoring one run in the sixth and two runs in the bottom of the seventh to defeat visiting Menlo-Atherton, 3-2, Wednesday afternoon. The defeat, M-A's fourth straight, dropped the Bears to 14-11 overall and 8-5 in league play with one game remaining in the regular season.
The game was largely a pitchers' duel between Half Moon Bay junior Julian Garcia and M-A senior Patrick Moriarty—both of whom shut out the opposition over the game's first five innings.
M-A finally broke through in the top of the sixth, scoring twice on a run-scoring double by catcher Jeff Keller and Chace Warren's RBI single. Half Moon Bay answered with a run in the bottom of the sixth on three singles, including a run-scoring hit by junior David Moody.
The Cougars led off the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff single by Alex Weigandt, who advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Junior Tony Carlevaris then tied the game 2-2 with an RBI single.
After Kyle Zirbes relieved Moriarty, Garcia was walked intentionally, and then Zirbes walked Shane Whitting to load the bases. Nik France followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to left-center to win the game for the Cougars. Garcia earned a complete-game victory for Half Moon Bay, striking out four and walking two while throwing 100 pitches.
Jeff Keller, who entered the game hitting .521, once again led M-A's offense with two doubles (one of which just missed clearing the fence), while Chace Warren, Nils Gilbertson, Cam Winn, Chris Gow, and Wally Hansen each added singles to the Bears' seven-hit attack.
Starting pitcher Patrick Moriarty (3-4) was a hard-luck loser for M-A, limiting Half Moon Bay to three runs on seven hits, with three strikeouts and no walks. Moriarty shut out the Cougars on two hits over the first five frames, and had thrown just 68 pitches when he left the game with one out in the seventh.
Menlo-Atherton returns to action on Friday afternoon when it hosts Half Moon Bay in the regular-season finale.