With ace pitcher Freddy Avis unable to take the mound due to an illness, junior Austin Marcus came up huge as the fill-in starter. In fact, Marcus did his best Avis impersonation by throwing a complete-game one-hitter with 13 strikeouts as Menlo School toppled San Lorenzo Valley, 8-1, in a Central Coast Section Division III quarterfinal on Saturday at Washington Park in Santa Clara.
Second-seeded Menlo (21-7) will face No. 3 Monte Vista Christian (25-4) in Tuesday's semifinals at San Jose Municipal Stadium at 7 p.m. MVC advanced with a 5-2 victory over No. 6 Monterey.
Marcus, an all-league catcher, was making just his second start of the year after finding out just 45 minutes before game time that he would be the starting pitcher.
Through the first two games of the playoffs Menlo pitchers have allowed only one hit and one unearned run.
Offensively, the Knights were potent with the bats as they banged out 10 hits, seven of which were doubles. Seniors Jake Batchelder and Chris Zeisler led the way with Batchelder pounding out three doubles off the centerfield fence while driving in two and Zeisler adding two more doubles while knocking in one.
Marcus also had the key hit in game with a no-out double in the fourth that scored Avis to break a 1-1 tie. Avis, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter for the DH, who had walked. Marcus later scored on a fielder's choice.
In Division I, Christian Lonsky scored the winning run for Palo Alto in a 3-2 victory over Bellarmine (15-15) at Washington Park in Santa Clara.
The Vikings fell behind quickly as starting pitcher Ben Sneider gave up a solo homer on the second pitch of the game. Paly tied it in the third when Jack Witte doubled home B.J. Boyd.
Bellarmine loaded the bases with one out in the fourth, but managed only one run before a double play ended the threat.
The Vikings took the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth as Lonsky doubled home the tying run and scored the winner on a walk. Sophomore reliever Danny Erlich made the lead hold up with three strong innings.
The top-seeded Vikings (27-6), despite getting only four hits, advance to Wednesday's semifinals at San Jose Municipal Stadium and will play No. 4 Valley Christian (23-8) at 7 p.m. Valley Christian advanced with a 4-1 win over No. 12 Milpitas.
In Division II quarterfinal action, Gunn's hopes of advancing in the CCS playoffs came to an end in the bottom of the seventh inning as No. 2-seeded Aptos scored the winning run to hand the No. 10-seeded Titans a 4-3 loss at Hartnell College in Salinas. Gunn ended up 20-9, and Aptos will play on with a record of 19-8.
Senior righthander Graham Fisher got the start and went the distance for Gunn, giving up three earned runs on nine hits. He had five strikeouts.
Gunn struck first in the top of the first inning, to go up 1-0. Aptos tied it in the bottom of the second. The Titans scored a single run in both the fourth and sixth to go up 3-1. However, the Mariners tied it at 3 in the bottom of the sixth. In the top of the seventh, Gunn stranded the leadoff runner at second. Aptos came back with a game-winning two-out RBI double by the winning Aptos pitcher, Jared Koenig.
Offensively, the Titans were led by junior shortstop Chris Rea, who scored two of the three Titan runs, and had a leadoff double in the fourth. Junior left fielder Connor Dang went 3-for-3 on the day.
In addition to senior Ryan Gorman's pitching exploits (detailed after the Pioneer victory on Thursday), the Titans were led by three other seniors. Ryan Teranishi ended the season batting .311, was second on the team with 18 RBI and 12 stolen bases. Senior Jake Verhulp led the team with a .384 average, 38 hits, and seven times reached base on errors. Fisher was second on the team with a .372 average and 32 hits, and led the league with six home runs, led the team with 30 RBI, 17 extra-base hits, and a slugging percentage of .755.
Next season, the Titans will be well-stocked with returning juniors Rea, Dang, Kevin Sharp, and Ben Sampson. Returning freshman Matthew Sandor will be around and exciting to watch for three more years.
Verhulp will be playing next season at NCAA Division II Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. Fisher has committed to play football and baseball at Division III Grinnell College, in Grinnell, Iowa.
In Division III, only three days after upsetting the No. 1 seed (Palma) in the tournament, No. 16 Sacred Heart Prep reverted to its seeding and dropped an 11-0 decision to No. 9 Pacific Grove at St. Francis High. The Gators managed just three hits while allowing 12, including a pair of home runs, and finished 16-12-1.