There was no denying the Palo Alto baseball team on Saturday night, not even a two-hour rain delay would keep the Vikings from adding to what has been an historic year in athletics for the school.
During a season that saw Palo Alto win first-ever state championships in football and girls' volleyball, win the first SCVAL De Anza Division meet wrestling title in 25 years, capture the first De Anza Division and CCS Division I crown in girls' basketball and record a national record in girls' swimming, Paly baseball added to that list.
With the score tied at 4 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Paly's speedy B.J. Boyd led off with a grounder that was thrown into the Paly dugout along the first base line with Boyd advancing to second. Up stepped fellow junior Ozzy Braff, who lofted a fly ball into short right-center field.
A lackadaisical effort by the San Benito centerfielder in retrieving the ball allowed Boyd to race around third and score the winning run as Paly pulled out a 5-4 victory in the championship game of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs at San Jose Municipal Stadium.
For the No. 3-seeded Vikings (28-9), it was the first CCS title in program history – something the No. 5-seeded Haybalers (22-9) also were seeking in the 44th year of CCS baseball.
It was also the fifth section crown in Palo Alto baseball history. The Vikings, who have been playing the sport for at least 112 years, previously won North Coast Section titles in 1899, 1908, 1913 and 1927. Paly also won a state title in 1899.
The latest section crown came courtesy of Boyd, who said he never doubted that he would score, nor did he even look at Paly coach Erick Raich (who was waving him home) as he rounded third. It was all or nothing at that point.
For Boyd and other football players on the baseball squad, it was their second CCS title of the season. The Vikings won the Open Division crown in football this past season. The four CCS team titles in 2010-11 are the most ever by Paly in a single season.
"What an unbelievable season for these players, especially the one who played both football and baseball," Raich said. "The players deserve all of the credit and I couldn't be happier for them."
The newest title looked like it would be delayed a few days when inclement weather rolled before the game's scheduled start at 7 p.m. It rained heavily for nearly 30 minutes and the game was put on hold for nearly 90 minutes while a decision was made to either postpone the game or proceed. After bags of dirt were dumped on the infield around third and first base, the contest finally got under way just before 9 p.m.
While the rain held off, heavy winds and chilly winds were ever present during the game and led to a combined six errors in the game – four by San Benito.
After stranding runners the first two innings, Paly senior Cory Tenanes got things started in the third when he laced a triple. Boyd got on base on a dropped fly ball, allowing Tenanes to score. Two batters later, Ozzy Braff drove in Boyd for a 2-0 lead, setting the stage for their winning combination in the seventh.
San Benito rallied in the top of the fourth with three runs, two coming on a home run by Jacob Tonascia and the other on a Paly throwing error.
Senior Drake Swezey relieved junior starter Ben Sneider after the home run and finished up to get the victory. He got an inning-ending strikeout with runners on second and third to highlight the fourth. Swezey did allow a run in the fifth but struck out three of the four hitters he faced in the top of the seventh. Swezey said he was fired up after getting hit by a pitch in the sixth.
Paly retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to more crucial errors by the Haybalers. With two outs, Jack Witte's fly ball to right was dropped. Witte raced into second and scored just a batter latter when John Dickerson's grounder was booted for another error. Dickerson made his way to second on the play and scored on a single by Tenanes.
Three innings later, Palo Alto had its final run and first CCS baseball championship.
Raich, who said afterward that the game "will stick with me forever," now has guided the Vikings to a 57-13 record in his two seasons as head coach and back-to-back CCS title-game appearances. The Vikings took a No. 1 seed into last season's Division II final, but suffered a 7-4 upset at the hands of Burlingame.
Paly also lost in the finals in 2004 and 1991.
Palo Alto more than made up for that on Saturday night as seniors George Brown, T.J. Braff, Jeff Cohen, Tenanes, Sam Maliska, Christoph Bono, Jake Payne, Will Glazier, Swezey, and Graham Marchant walked off the soggy, muddy field as winners.