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May 18, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Menlo hopes tough preseason pays off Menlo hopes tough preseason pays off (May 18, 2005)

Knights open defense of the CCS Division III baseball title while SHP, Gunn and Paly join the playoffs

by Keith Peters

The Menlo School baseball team took its lumps early this season, struggling just to reach .500 at times. That, Menlo coach Craig Schoof said, was the plan.

"I knew it was a young team coming back," said Schoof, who prepared his players the best way possible. "We played everybody. We've probably seen everybody's No. 1 pitcher."

Menlo faced perennial powerhouses like Carmel, Pacific Grove and Monterey, in addition to facing some of the top teams in the west at the annual Bishop Gorman tournament in Las Vegas. The Knights returned from that trip with an 8-8 season record.

Menlo finished the regular season with 12 losses, but the experience gained from those defeats may have been well worth it.

"We lost a lot of one-run games," Schoof said. "We were down 3-0 in both our games last week."

But Menlo found a way to win, learning to battle back throughout the PAL Ocean Division season that concluded with a co-championship.

"I think that's why we finished the season with seven straight wins," Schoof said. "Nothing intimidates us."

Schoof will discover just how prepared his team is for the postseason run when the No. 3 Knights (18-12) open defense of their title Friday against No. 6 King's Academy (17-4) in the first round of the Division III playoffs at Santa Clara's Washington Park at 7 p.m.

King's Academy finished second to Sacred Heart Prep in the Private Schools Athletic League this season. The Gators (17-10) received the No. 5 seed in Division III and will open at Washington Park on Friday against No. 4 St. Thomas More (20-4) at 4 p.m.

Should Menlo reach the semifinals, it will play the winner between No. 2 Palma and No. 7 R.L. Stevenson. Should Sacred Heart Prep advance, it will take on either No. 8 Pacific Grove or No. 1 Carmel. Those games will be Tuesday at San Jose Municipal Stadium, site of the CCS championship game on May 28.

Menlo beat King's Academy, 13-1, in last year's semifinals and Schoof believes anything could happen this time around.

"It's baseball," he said. "It could be one and done or we could win all three. I wouldn't put it past us. You have to like our chances anytime Andy Suiter is pitching."

Suiter, who'll pitch for UCLA next season, is Menlo's all-time strikeout leader with 419. He's 7-3 in 2005 and has 31 career wins, leaving him three shy of tying the school's all-time mark.

That's unlikely, even if he wins Friday's opener and comes back to win the CCS championship game.

Menlo wrapped up a co-title in the Ocean Division with a 4-3 win over host Woodside on he last day of the regular season. Catcher Anthony Bouvier had two hits and two RBI to help the Knights reach the CCS playoffs for the 17th time in the past 18 years.

In addition to Menlo and Sacred Heart Prep, Gunn and Palo Alto also will open postseason play this week.

The Titans (16-7) were seeded 14th in Division I and will visit No. 3 Leigh (20-6) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Palo Alto (15-12) is the No. 10 seed in Division I and opens Thursday at No. 7 Half Moon Bay (17-6).

After a two-year absence, Gunn earned a CCS berth with a 4-3 victory in nine innings over host Homestead last Thursday.

"Wow, what a game," said Gunn coach Tim Thompson, who returned to the team this season after leading the Titans into the postseason two years ago.

Gunn's victory earned the Titans a co-championship in the SCVAL El Camino Division with Santa Clara. Both teams finished 13-5.

The Titans, however, held the tiebreaker by virtue of their two victories over the Bruins last week. That means Gunn got the league's lone automatic CCS berth plus a promotion to the De Anza Division next season.

"I was really happy for our seniors," Thompson said. "Aside from Ryan McDermott, who played for me as a freshman in my final year of the first go-round when we were runnersup in the De Anza and went to the playoffs, this senior class from a baseball standpoint hasn't had a lot to get exited about. And, they are too good of a class not to have made the playoffs."

Now that Gunn is back in the postseason, the question is for how long?

"The game against Leigh is going to be tough," Thompson said. "If you look at the body of work, they had a very impressive season. They really pulled away in a tough division that sent five teams to the playoffs. Had Oak Grove won their final game, it would have been six."

Thompson likely will throw junior left hander Brent Gardiner.

Paly, like Gunn, comes into the postseason off a big victory. The Vikings toppled SCVAL De Anza Division champ Los Gatos, 4-2, last Friday. Senior Karl Laughton spread out six hits and allowed one earned run. He struck out the side in the bottom of the seventh. Seniors Matt Wismann and Nathan Ford combined for five hits, with Ford hitting a home run and driving in three.

Should Paly get past Half Moon Bay, the Vikings likely will face No. 2 Santa Cruz (25-7) on Saturday at Santa Clara's Washington Park.


Castilleja will make its second appearance ever in the CCS playoffs when the No. 5-seeded Gators (14-3) open Division III play on Thursday against No. 12 Latino College Prep (9-6) at Redwood City's Hawes Park at 7 p.m.

Castilleja finished off a 10-0 season and championship in the West Bay Athletic League with a 7-5 win in 11 innings at Mercy-Burlingame last Friday.

Junior pitcher Alex Chang-Graham, who has been simply outstanding this season, struck out a season-high 17 and walked only one while pitching all 11 innings. Stephanie Smith had four hits while Jane Alexander, Sterling Yee and Lauren Augustine all had two hits.

Girls lacrosse

While Menlo did not win the regular-season title in the PAL this season, the Knights didn't come away empty handed. They save their best for last, edging regular-season champion Gunn, 8-7, in the PAL playoff championship game Saturday at Menlo-Atherton High.

Menlo, which lost twice to Gunn during the regular season, finished the year 15-7 while Gunn ended up 16-1. It was Menlo's second straight playoff championship victory, having beaten the Titans in last year's finale.

Molly Lapolla scored the game-winner in the second half after the Titans had taken a 4-0 lead midway through the first half.

Lapolla brought Menlo to within 7-6 and fellow senior Julia Martin tied the match at 7 with a goal with just 2:54 left to play. That set the stage for Lapolla's winning shot after she was fouled with 1:48 to play.

Martin, Lapolla and Mary O'Reilly led Menlo with two goals apiece. Maggie Wynn (three goals) and Becca Tisdale (two) paced the Titans.

Boys lacrosse

Menlo overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat Menlo-Atherton, 10-6, in the PAL championship match Saturday at M-A. The Knights concluded their season 21-1 with their third win over the Bears this season.

Colin Burke and Matt Moone scored three goals each to lead Menlo. Erik Fowle and Bassy Turner scored twice for the Bears.

Track and field

The Palo Alto girls advanced most of their key athletes to Saturday's CCS semifinals at San Jose City College, following a solid performance at last weekend's SCVAL Qualifier at Los Gatos.

The Vikings 400 relay team of Ranecia Fields, Katy Wanner, Katrina Zawojski and Alyson Seedman set a school record of 48.52 at the top qualifier.

Zawojski added a victory in the 200 in 25.45, won the long jump with a season best of 17-5 and went 36-10 1/2 to win the triple jump with Wanner taking second at 35-0 1/2.

Freshman Mia Lattanzi broke her own school record by winning the 400 in 56.56, junior Elissa Chandler won the 100 hurdles in 16.02 and joined with Meghan Przybyla (47.10) as qualifiers in the 300 hurdles. Wanner took third in the 100, Alicia Ivanhoe qualified in the 800, Seedman advanced in the 200 and Renata Cummins advanced in the 3,200. Paly's 1,600 relay team also moved on with a season best of 4:00.49, just off the school record of 3:59.8 set in 1986, and Linda Oseso qualified in both the shot put and discus while Ruthie Ryan (high jump) and Field (long jump) moved on to the semifinals, as well.

Gunn senior Tori Tyler led the Gunn girls into the CCS semis. She won the 3,200 in 10:42.98, beating Stanford-bound Alicia Follmar of Saratoga. Earlier, Tyler finished second in the 1,600 (to Follmar) in a season best of 5:02.14.

The Paly and Gunn boys also advanced most of their top athletes. Pierre Meloty-Kapella (100 and 200) led the Vikings while Chris Yu (long jump and triple jump) was the Titans' top qualifier.

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