By Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
The Palo Alto baseball team brought a new meaning to the phrase "pitching by committee" as the Vikings picked a good time to gain some important momentum, rallying to beat visiting Bellarmine, 2-1, in a nonleague game on Monday.
The Vikings play an important two-game SCVAL De Anza Division series with first-place Los Altos on Wednesday (at LA) and Friday (at Paly). The Eagles are 9-1 in league while the Vikings are 7-3.
Despite playing the makeup game with Bellarmine (6-14), Palo Alto's pitching staff will be well-rested for the division showdown after Paly coach Erick Raich had seven different pitchers face the Bells.
Only starter Kevin Kannappan allowed a run, a first-inning solo homer. After that, the Vikings' staff allowed only one more hit as Ben Sneider, Graham Marchant, John Dickerson, Arun Varma, Sam Maliska and Drake Swezey followed with one inning each. Swezey gave up the other hit, with two out in the top of the seventh.
"Maybe we should try that again," Raich said. "When was the last time you heard of a public school throwing seven different pitchers and beating a WCAL team? I bet never."
Palo Alto tied the game in the fourth after Austin Braff was safe on an overthrow to first. He was balked to second and stole third, scoring when Swezey's popup to short right fell in for a single. In the fifth, Cory Tenanes led off with a double and, two batters later, Christoph Bono lashed a game-winning triple that hit the top of the fence and caromed back onto the field -- one of only four hits for the Vikings (14-7).
Paly might have scored more, but mistakes erased potentially two more runs. In the third, Jack Witte walked and stole second. Tenanes moved Witte to third on a groundout but, when B.J. Boyd ripped a hard grounder to third, Witte was caught off base and wound up being tagged out in a rundown.
In the fourth, after Paly had tied the game, Clay Carey kept the inning alive with a single to center. Swezey, aboard with the game-tying single, then stole third. With T.J. Braff at the plate with one out, Carey headed for second and Braff struck out. Braff, however, blocked the catcher's throw to second and Carey was also called out for Braff's interference.
Paly batters also struck out nine times, but the seven-man pitching rotation did its job by offering a variety of speeds and styles that kept the Bells ineffective at the plate.
"As for this week (against Los Altos), yes, a big week," Raich said. "We need to play better, but I think regardless we are okay for seeding purposes for the post-league tournament because Los Altos and Homestead still need to play each other."
Homestead is in third place at 9-3, with Wilcox second at 8-2. Paly is fourth while Los Gatos (7-5) is fifth.
"If we can pull out a sweep (of Los Altos) and get Los Gatos to beat Wilcox once, then there is potential for a three-way tie for first place, which would be crazy."
While Palo Alto is back from spring break, Sacred Heart Prep began its week off on Monday. While the SHP students are gone, the baseball players are still busy.
The Gators tuned up for Wednesday's West Bay Athletic League home game against Crystal Springs (4 p.m.) by holding off visiting Riordan, 5-4, in a nonleague test on Monday.
The Crusaders tied the game at 4 in the top of the seventh before the Gators rallied in the bottom of the frame when Bo Sakowski delivered a game-winning single with the bases loaded. Sakowski had two hits as did Cal Baloff, Matt Martella and Zack Buono while Martella added two RBI for the Gators (10-9), who now have won three of their past four games.
In Rancho Cordova near Sacramento, Menlo-Atherton continued its recent offensive surge with a 17-1 blasting of Center High in the opening round of an annual Easter tournament.
Leadoff batter Casey Eason and teammate Kyle Zirbes, batting second, both reached base in each of the first four innings and scored a total of eight runs. Those two, along with the Bears' next three hitters -- Nick Lange, Myles Brewer and Sam Falkenhagen -- combined for 10 RBI. Cam Winn, batting ninth, hit the team's first triple of the season.
M-A's Ryan Cortez pitched the first three innings, giving up only two hits and one run. Chace Warren came on in relief and allowed no hits or run over the final two innings of the mercy-rule shortened game. The Bears (11-6) have scored 41 runs in their past three games while giving up only 12.
Falkenhagen had three RBI to lead M-A while Zirbes added three hits.
In another nonleague game, Josh Rose threw six strong innings and Nate Bell had two hits and three RBI as Pinewood defeated visiting Waldorf (San Francisco), 5-3, on Monday.
In a foul-marred night game at Gunn on Monday, the Palo Alto boys' lacrosse team survived an uninspiring first half and overzealous referees for a 13-3 SCVAL win. The Vikings improved to 4-2 in the SCVAL De Anza Division (9-3 overall) while the Titans feoo to 3-4 (4-6 overall).
A man-up goal by Gunn's Marcus Cassidy tied the game, 1-1, in the first quarter, and second-quarter goals by Cassidy and teammate Spencer Keenan kept the Titans in the game in a close first half that ended with Gunn trailing by just 4-3. The second half, however, belonged to the Vikings and the referees.
Paly midfielder John Brunett won the opening face-off and sprinted downfield to give attackman Cory Valenti a beautiful feed for a 5-3 Paly lead. Brunett finished the day 7 of 10 on faceoffs, with a goal and two assists for another impressive performance. Valenti also looked sharp, with two goals and an assist, but midfielder Kevin Proceviat was the real engine of Palo Alto's offense. Proceviat's scrambling and hustle earned him 10 ground balls, two goals, and four assists for a standout evening.
Even more noteworthy than Proceviat were the referees, who called 21 fouls in the second half alone. Several times during the contest players and coaches were sent back to their benches as the refs tried to wrestle control of the situation. While Paly had survived seven man-down situations in the first half, Gunn faced nine in the second, and the Vikings responded with four man-up goals scored. Gunn ended the game with 17 fouls for a total of 15 minutes, 30 seconds while Paly was penalized 14 times for 12:00.
Other Paly goal-scorers included Matt Lam and Zach Spain with two apiece, Bryan Keohane and Logan Menenhall with a goal and an assist each, and Skyler Anderson and Jon Glazier. Paly next plays visiting Saratoga on Wednesday night (7 p.m.) while Gunn plays Leland at home on Friday.