The Menlo School baseball team advanced to the Central Coast Section Division II championship game with a 10-7 victory over visiting Capuchino at San Jose Municipal Stadium Tuesday evening.
The No. 3 seeded Knights improved to 23-7 overall while Capuchino ended its season at 16-15. Menlo will play the top-seeded Carmel (22-7), a 3-2 winner over No. 13 Monterey (14-15) in the finals on Saturday at San Jose Muni at 1 p.m.
Carmel has won eight section titles and Menlo five. The Knights return to the CCS finals for the first time since 2013 and are seeking their first title since they won it all in 2011 under then-head coach Craig Schoof.
"We set a goal at the beginning of the season to make the CCS championship," said Menlo second-year manager Ryan Cavan. "We've accomplished that goal."
Add senior RJ Babiera: "We've been extremely happy with our outcome and we look forward to this championship. "Coming into this year, I think we knew that we were capable of reaching this far."
That says a lot for Menlo's confidence, which was tested by a horrendous 6-22 campaign in Cavan's first season. The Knights, however, returned plenty of talent that produced the kind of offense that was lacking in 2015.
"This was a team effort today," said Cavan. "Everyone contributed to the win. A big theme was that we wanted to hit. We had 11 hits on 10 runs scored and if you score 10 runs it's easier to win."
Menlo, which had beaten Capuchino by 8-0 and 5-0 in its two previous meetings, got its bats going in the second inning. Junior Chandler Yu led off the inning with a double that one-hopped the wall. Senior David Rich laid down the squeeze bunt and Yu scored from third base making it a 1-0 game.
Babiera lined a single to right field and two men came around to score. Senior third baseman Rylan Pade pulled a double to left, scoring Babiera from second base and made it a 4-0 lead going into the third.
Babiera had a solid game with two hits, two runs scored and three RBI. Yu added a pair of doubles, an RBI and two runs scored in addition to picking up his 10th win of the season against just one loss.
Capuchino answered in the third inning when Ramon Enriquez smashed a double to right field, bringing home Aiden Yarwood and Trey Zahursky to make it a 4-3 Menlo edge. Enriquez had two hits and two RBI for his team.
The Knights responded quickly and added to their lead. Senior Jared Lucian knocked home David Farnham on a single to left and Menlo went up 7-3. Lucian finished with two hits.
In the fifth inning, Babiera smashed a base hit to left field to drive in Ben Somorjai and make it 8-3. The Knights added two more runs in the frame for a comfortable 10-3 lead.
The Mustangs rallied in the sixth inning with four runs on four hits. Matt O'Mahony singled to center field and Enriquez came around to score, making it 10-4. Capuchino added three runs to close the gap to 10-7 after the sixth.
Capuchino had one last chance to do damage in the seventh inning. The Mustangs had the bases loaded with one out when their designated hitter hit a ground ball to Pade at third base. He stepped on third and threw it across the infield to first base for a double play to wrap up the win.
Looking ahead, Menlo players rightfully figured No. 1 Carmel would be their opponent.
"We're just anticipating that Carmel is going to win," said Pade. "I have some good friends on that team and they have a great senior class like we do. We're still going to come out confident and know that we have good pitching left."
Added Babiera: "Our emotions are running high and, coming into our last game, the emotions will be high whether we win or lose."