When Kenny Diekroeger injured his knee recently, the Menlo baseball team lost its shortstop, closer, and one of its top hitters.
The standout senior suffered a knee injury sliding headfirst into second base and will likely be forced to miss the rest of the baseball season.
Diekroeger was stealing second and slid headfirst to beat the throw in a PAL Bay Division game against Woodside last week. The catcher's throw drifted right, drawing the second baseman off the bag and into Diekroeger's base path. Diekroeger said he adjusted his slide to try to avoid the second baseman, but in doing so, jammed his knee into the ground.
"The doctors are still not sure how severe it is," said Diekroeger, who is headed to Stanford in the fall but is also a possible selection in the June 9 Major League Baseball first-year player draft.
Regardless of the determined severity of the injury, Diekroeger will not require surgery.
With three games left in the PAL season and the Central Coast Section tournament to follow, the Knights (21-6) will have to play on without their all-around star. Head coach Craig Schoof said Diekroeger's younger brother Danny Diekroeger will play Kenny's regular spot at shortstop, while Dustin Williams and Steven Zavodnick, both of whom are returning from injuries of their own, will pick up Diekroeger's innings.
"He (Danny Diekroeger) is very sure-handed. He doesn't quite have Kenny's range or Kenny's arm, so probably a few more balls are going to get in, but we'll be fine defensively," said Schoof.
"Pitching-wise, that's going to be the toughest thing to replace. We used him (Kenny) as our closer and he was lights-out, so that was always the ace in the hole at the end of the game," said Schoof.
On the season, Diekroeger has six saves in six opportunities and has posted 0.68 ERA with 15 strikeouts.
Offensively, the Knights lose one of their best bats. Diekroeger has a team-high batting average of .586 and a slugging percentage of 1.069. He also leads Menlo in home runs with four and is fifth on the team in RBI with 20, despite hitting in the leadoff spot. Still, Schoof said he believes the Knights will be fine without Diekroeger's bat.
"We've got a lot of good hitters." Schoof said. "We'll certainly miss him . . . but I think we can compensate."
Schoof also pointed out that Menlo played its first seven games of the season without Diekroeger, pitcher Alex Smith, or outfielder Trevor Williams, who were all part of the CCS Division IV champion Menlo basketball team.
"So if anything, this is better. We're only missing one of them now," said Schoof.
During that seven game stretch, Menlo went 5-2. Since Diekroeger's injury, the Knights have won both of their games. Menlo currently holds a two-game lead for first place in the PAL Bay Division over Burlingame (16-11), but have a two-game series with Burlingame next week.
"Nobody has to play great. They just have to rise up and pick their games up," said Schoof.
Menlo, 10-1 in league, will visit El Camino on Friday. Should the Knights win, the can wrap up the Bay Division title next Wednesday by beating visiting Burlingame.
The Knights moved closer to clinching after pounding out 13 hits in a 10-1 thumping of visiting El Camino on Wednesday. Trevor Williams got things started by hitting the first pitch in the bottom of the first for a home run. By the time Menlo finished the bottom of the third, it was 10-0. Danny Diekroeger added a two-run homer in the first as eight of the nine starters got hits while six of the nine had RBI.
The offensive output made things easy for Smith, who pitched a complete-game five-hitter while improving to 5-2. The one run he allowed was unearned.
In the SCVAL De Anza Division, Palo Alto saw its five-game win streak end in a 3-1 loss to visiting Wilcox in the first round of the division playoffs on Tuesday. The Vikings (13-14) had to beat the Chargers (22-5) on Thursday to keep their best-of-three series alive for Friday's winner-take-all game at Wilcox.
Palo Alto, remarkably headed into the top of the seventh inning with a scoreless game despite the fact the Vikings had no hits. Paly starter Scott Witte did a good job of keeping Wilcox off the bases until things fell apart in the top of the seventh. Witte got the leadoff hitter with a strikeout, but Wilcox got runners on third and second following a single and double. A passed ball allowed the runner on third to break the scoreless deadlock and a squeeze bunt (with the throw dropped at first) made it a 2-0 game.
Sophomore Graham Marchant came on in relief of Witte and walked the first hitter he faced. After a strikeout for the second out, Wilcox managed another single for a 3-0 game. Paly junior Joc Pederson broke up Andrew Herrera's no-hitter with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the seventh, but that was the offense the Vikings could muster.
The winner of this series will go on to play the winner of the Los Gatos-Los Altos series next week. At stake is a higher seed for the upcoming Central Coast Section playoffs, of which Palo Alto already has earned a berth.
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn broke away from a 3-3 game by scoring three runs in the top of the 10th to beat host Mountain View, 6-3, on Tuesday. Jon Rea got the win for the Titans, who have won five straight games while improving to 7-5 in league (11-15 overall). Mountain View fell to 8-4 in league (13-14 overall). The teams met again Thursday
In the PAL Ocean Division, Sacred Heart Prep pounded out 25 hits and won its 11th straight baseball game, a 17-7 romp over visiting Hillsdale on Tuesday. Eric Andrews slammed a homer while Ryan Sakowski, Charlie Bradford and Matt Bocci all doubled as the Gators improved to 8-3 in league and 17-8 overall. SHP hasn't lost in over a month.
Sacred Heart raced to a 13-3 lead after three innings as JJ Suttle helped lead the way. He finished with four hits and four RBI while Sakowski had four hits and scored three times. Alex Baloff contributed three hits and three RBI and Matt Brezinski had three hits and two RBI to make it easy on the Gators' three-man pitching rotation that limited Hillsdale to six hits. Kevin Wilkins picked up the win in relief.
Sacred Heart Prep went after its 12th straight win on Thursday at Hillsdale to wrap up the regular season. The Gators will visit El Camino for a nonleague game on Saturday before getting ready for the postseason.
Results of the Menlo-Atherton/Terra Nova game Tuesday were not reported.