Sports

Palo Alto reaches Division I final by upending Mitty, 5-2

 

The rankings said Palo Alto had no chance against Mitty in their Central Coast Section Division I baseball semifinal on Wednesday night at San Jose Municipal Stadium. The No. 2-seeded Monarchs came in ranked No. 20 in the state while the No. 3-seeded Vikings were No. 41, according to MaxPreps.

When Palo Alto scored four runs in the first inning, those rankings went out the window along with Mitty's hopes of defending its title as the Vikings went on to post a 5-2 victory.

"What a win for the Palo Alto team and community," said Paly coach Erick Raich.

Palo Alto (27-9) will go after its first-ever CCS on Saturday against No. 5 San Benito (22-8), also at San Jose Muni, at 7 p.m. San Benito advanced with a 5-0 win over No. 8 Salinas in the earlier semifinal.

This will be Palo Alto's fourth trip to the CCS finals. The Vikings lost in the Division II title game last season to Burlingame, 7-4, and previously lost to Wilcox, 5-4, in 2004. Paly's first trip came in 1991, which resulted in a 3-2 loss to Blackford.

It didn't take long for Paly to put itself in position for another title shot. Christoph Bono got the first of his three hits in the first after one was out. Austin Braff walked and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. T.J. Braff was intentionally walked to load the bases for Will Glazier, who lofted a sacrifice fly to score Bono. When the relay throw to the plate got past the catcher, Braff also came home for a 2-0 lead.

Drake Swezey walked and stole second, one of five bases the Vikings swiped. That set the stage for Jack Witte, who lined a single to right to score Braff and Swezey.

Bono gave Paly a 5-0 lead in the third after getting a leadoff single and stealing second and third before scoring on a wild pitch by reliever Tyler Davis.

"Bono had a huge game offensively and, top to bottom, the offense had great at-bats," Raich said.

After that it was all pitching and defense for Palo Alto. Junior Ben Sneider retired the first seven batters he faced and allowed four hits and two runs over 4 1/3 innings. Swezey, a senior, held Mitty scoreless the final 2 2/3 innings.

"We played unbelievable defense and Sneider and Swezey did an unbelievable job of attacking the zone and going right at the Mitty hitters," Raich said.

Austin Braff made two standout plays at shortstop, taking away potential hits in back-to-back innings, while Alec Wong made two nice defensive plays on tough ground balls in the sixth as the Vikings avenged their 6-3 loss to Mitty in the Mike Hazlett Memorial Tournament on Feb. 28. Paly started the season 1-3, but has gone 26-6 since.

Palo Alto will take a five-game win streak into Saturday's championship game and now has won 16 of its past 18 games.

This will be the first all-public school Division I final since 2004, when Wilcox defeated Palo Alto, 5-4, and only the third in the past 21 years. Monta Vista beat Leland in the Division 4A title game in 1990.

— Palo Alto Online Sports

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