The Palo Alto baseball team came up just short of being alone in first place, as visiting division rival Wilcox downed the Vikings, 6-3, in a SCVAL De Anza Division matchup on Wednesday.
The Vikings fell to 4-1 (8-3 overall) while Wilcox improved to 5-0 (9-4 overall) and took sole possession of first place. Palo Alto has outscored its opponents 94-39 in 11 games so far this season, but needed a few more runs against the Chargers.
In the top of the sixth inning with two outs and the bases loaded, Wilcox's Eric Mendonca drew a walk from Vikings' freshman Niko Lillios and Jacob Adame came in for the go-ahead run and 4-3 Chargers' lead.
"It's a learning experience," said Paly first-year head coach Pete Fukuhara. "We had a sophomore and a freshman come in in tough situations. Any time you put them in those situations, they learn from it whether they had success or not. They'll build from it."
The Chargers started their first inning with a sacrifice fly to center field from Jacob Martinez that scored Mendonca from third base making it a early 1-0 Wilcox advantage.
Palo Alto answered in the second inning when sophomore Ethan Stern knocked home Lawrence Han on a ground out to second base making it 1-1.
Paly senior first baseman Jack Andrews lined a base hit up the middle, scoring Justin Hull from second base and the Vikings took a 3-1 lead going into the fourth. The offense was looking solid for the Vikings as they smashed four hits in the inning and totaled 10 in the game.
"Our approach was better today," said Fukuhara, whose team came off a 3-0 no-hit loss to San Ramon Valley on Saturday. "That guy was OK on the mound. I think we could do a better job at getting a little smaller -- it was definitely better today."
Palo Alto senior Isaac Kasevich shut down the Wilcox offense for five innings, allowing only two hits and one earned run before his team got into some trouble in the sixth inning.
Sophomore Ryan Chang came in and loaded the bases, then walked two men in home. Lillios then relieved Chang and walked a batter before hitting Miles Wolf to make it a 5-3 Wilcox advantage.
Palo Alto couldn't get back into its hitting grove. The Vikings mustered only three hits and no runs after their big third inning. Paly had a chance to score with the bases loaded in the fifth inning with one out, but the seventh and eighth hitters couldn't get a hit to drop.
"They competed hard and their pitcher did a great job," said Kasevich. "We had chances in the middle of the game to bury them, but we didn't take advantage and it came back to bite us."
The Vikings will have a chance to redeemed themselves when they take on the host Chargers on Friday at 4 p.m.
"The mindset never changes," said Fukuhara. "We go in just playing against the game of baseball one pitch at a time."
In the SCVAL El Camino Division, Gunn remained atop the standings after Raviv Levens and Justin Wenig combined on a three-hitter to defeat visiting Fremont, 11-4. Levens pitched four innings with six strikeouts and no earned runs. Wenig closed out the game with five strikeouts and no earned runs over the final three frames.
Guy Kaznick and Wenig each had two hits and three RBI as the Titans improved to 5-0 in league (7-4-1 overall). Gunn scored five times in the first inning and pulled away with four runs in the fifth to help overcome five errors.
In the PAL Bay Division, Sacred Heart Prep won the first of two showdowns with neighborhood rival Menlo School with a 10-1 triumph on the Knights' field. Cole March had a pair of doubles among his three hits with John Van Sweden adding two singles as the Gators moved to 3-1 in league (6-4 overall) and kept Menlo winless in league at 0-3 (2-6 overall). Andrew Daschbach and Michael York each had two RBI to support winning freshman pitcher Angelo Tonas. Menlo managed just a single by Jared Lucian off the Gators.
Also in the PAL Bay Division, Menlo-Atherton (0-3, 3-10) managed just three hits in an 11-0 loss to host Burlingame.