Craig Schoof knows his days as Menlo School's baseball coach are numbered. In fact, the Knights' next loss will bring an end to Schoof's highly successful career as he has announced his retirement following the conclusion of this season.
That day appeared to have arrived on Wednesday after host Capuchino loaded the bases with no outs while threatening to erase Menlo's tenuous 2-1 lead in an opening-round game of the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs.
But, Schoof will coach another day, thanks to an incredible triple play by Menlo senior shortstop Mikey Diekroeger.
"In all my years at Menlo we've never had a triple play," said Schoof. "And then to end the CCS game, it's amazing."
With no outs and the bases loaded for the Mustangs in the bottom of the seventh, Capuchino senior Kyle Patterson hit a low line drive to the left of Diekroeger, who dived and caught the ball, stepped on second base, and then threw out the player retreating to first to complete the stunning triple play as Menlo first baseman Rylan Pade made a good play on Diekroeger's one-hopper.
After having to wait while Capuchino protested that Diekroeger had trapped the ball, the Knights finally were able to celebrate.
"In baseball you never know," said Menlo starting pitcher Wyatt Driscoll. "You're always one pitch away. We had a guy that was in the right place at the right time and they hit the perfect ball and it turned into a triple play -- that's all you can ask for."
The No. 12-seeded Knights improved to 18-12 while the fifth-seeded Mustangs finished their season at 22-9. Menlo will take on No. 4 seed Santa Cruz (14-10) on Saturday in the quarterfinals. Menlo and Santa Cruz last met in CCS action in the 2011 title game, won by the Knights.
"Our assistant coaches said this was going to be a 2-1 or 3-2 type of ballgame," said Schoof. "We know they have great pitching. We know last week's aberration (a 14-1 Menlo win), them using their (No.) 3 and 4 guys (pitchers). We had Wyatt and we swung the bats well and the wind was blowing."
Menlo grabbed a 1-0 lead when Menlo junior Macklan Badger led off the third inning with a walk then advanced to second on a bunt. Diekroeger then hit a ground ball to shortstop, but the throw got past the first basemen and Badger scored from second base.
Mustangs sophomore Dylan Arsenault led off the bottom of the third with a base hit to right field. Arsenault stole second base then advanced to third on a bunt. Patterson grounded out to short stop, scoring Arsenault from third, making it a 1-1 game.
Menlo sophomore Jared Lucian came up huge in the top of the sixth when he smashed a double to left-center field, scoring Diekroeger -- who also had doubled -- from second base and giving Menlo the 2-1 edge.
Driscoll threw seven complete innings and gave up just one run.
"We're going to play Menlo baseball," said Schoof. "We'll battle, we'll fight and we'll see what happens. We've been to the semifinals four years in a row -- we expect to be there."
Should Menlo get there next week, the likely opponent would be top-seeded Pacific Grove. The Breakers have beaten the Knights the past two years in the CCS Division III title game.
In San Jose, No. 9 Sacred Heart Prep saw its season end in a 7-6 loss to No. 8 and host Branham in another Division II opener.
Andrew Daschbach slammed a two-run homer in the top of the seventh for the Gators (15-14), bringing them to within 7-6. SHP, however, couldn't push across the tying run.
Kyle Johnson led SHP with three hits while Will Johnston, Daschbach and Cole March all had two as the Gators out-hit Branham, 11-9. Branham, however, grabbed a 5-0 lead after two innings, forcing the Gators to play catch-up.
In the Open Division, No. 9-seeded Palo Alto let a 4-2 lead get away and dropped an 8-4 first-round decision to No. 8 Leland (20-9). Paly senior Noah Phillips had three hits, including a double, but the Vikings (16-15) were out-hit, 13-6, and committed three errors.
In Division I, No. 12-seeded Menlo-Atherton (16-12-1) will begin its quest to reach the finals when the Bears visit No. 5 Watsonville (20-6) on Thursday night at 7 p.m.