Ritter Amsbaugh did it all Saturday for the Palo Alto High School baseball team.
Amsbaugh was chosen to make the start for Paly in a do-or-die Central Coast Section Division I playoff game against St. Francis, and he rewarded the confidence placed in him with a sterling four-hit complete-game shutout as No. 2 seed Palo Alto beat No. 7 St. Francis 8-0.
And the pitching part is not all he accomplished, only around half of it. When Paly came up in the bottom of the third in a scoreless game Amsbaugh, batting in the No. 9 spot in the order, led off with a single to center.
That hit ignited the Paly offense, which batted around. Four runs were in and the bases loaded when Amsbaugh came to the plate for a second time in the inning.
A four-run lead would be terrific, he figured, but with the sacks full why not try to make it even better?
He did that and then some, driving a pitch from St. Francis starter Tristan Kim over the left-field fence for a grand slam home run and an 8-0 lead.
“Yesterday I had a good day of batting practice and that translated to today,’’ Amsbaugh said. “I just tried to get on base when I led off. With the bases loaded I just let it fly.’’
Amsbaugh returned to the mound after his big blast and continued to mow through the St. Francis lineup. He walked nobody and struck out eight.
“I was real psyched up,’’ he said. “I never had a complete-game shutout before. I just tried to hit my spot on the low outside corner with my fastball and mixed in my curve,’’
Palo Alto (21-4) advances to the CCS Division I semifinals on Wednesday when it will host No. 3 seed Valley Christian, a 10-1 winner over Aptos.
Palo Alto coach Pete Fukuhara had plenty of potential candidates to start the team’s first playoff game, but settled on Amsbaugh.
“Ritter’s been the most consistent guy all year,’’ Fukuhara said. “He has great command and he’s all about the team. Pitching a complete game leaves plenty of arms available for Wednesday.’’
Amsbaugh improved to 6-0 on the season and lowered an ERA that stood at 1.35 prior to the game. In 38 innings he’s allowed 25 hits, walked eight and struck out 43.
He was in such control against the Lancers that the defense didn’t have to make a lot of great plays. Second baseman Xavier Esquer sure contributed a gem, however. With two out in the third St. Francis leadoff hitter Max Ross hit a popup to shallow right. Esquer took off at a full sprint and came up with a remarkable catch over his shoulder in full stride.
Esquer also had a run scored and a stolen base, one of three bags the Vikings swiped. Zander Darby and pinch runner Dante Black had the other two. Tommy Hall had two hits.
Leland 5, Menlo-Atherton 4 (8 innings)
Leland scored the tying run in the bottom of the seventh and then walked off with a victory in the first round of the CCS Division II playoffs in San Jose.
Matt MacLeod drove in a run in the first and then doubled home another run in the third as the Bears (20-7) took a 4-0 lead after three innings.
Rowen Barnes also drove in a run and another scored on an error.
George Zaharias took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth when the game started slipping away. Zaharias allowed three runs, one earned, on three hits over his 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out five.
Barnes came on to finish the sixth, preserving a 4-3 edge and setting up the final two innings.
M-A won the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division and was seeded fifth to Leland's No. 4 seed.