In what must rank as the most significant victory in Menlo-Atherton baseball history, the 14th-seeded Bears shocked third-seeded St. Francis, 9-5, in the first round of the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs on Wednesday on the Lancers' field.
The Bears used a 16-hit attack and a superb outing by starting pitcher Nils Gilbertson to defeat highly regarded St. Francis, which entered the game ranked ninth in the state and 58th nationally by MaxPreps.
With only its second CCS victory in school history secured, Menlo-Atherton (16-11) advances to the quarterfinals on Saturday where it will face sixth-seeded Bellarmine (18-12), a 10-0 winner over Homestead, at St. Francis at 10 a.m.
Gilbertson shut out the potent Lancers' lineup over the first five innings, scattering five hits. Meanwhile, the Bears were building a 5-0 lead, thanks to an RBI single by Wally Hansen in the second inning (one of four hits for the senior centerfielder, who also drove in two runs), along with a two-run single by junior Chace Warren plus two unearned runs in the third.
M-A took a 7-0 lead on Warren's two-run single in the top of the sixth (his third and fourth RBIs of the game) before St. Francis began a late-game comeback that was destined to fall short.
In the bottom of the sixth, St. Francis catcher Chris Hoo belted a long homer to left-center to cut M-A's lead to 7-1. The Bears answered in the top of the seventh with an RBI triple by Hansen and a run-scoring single by Casey Eason to extend their lead to 9-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, with Gilbertson tiring after throwing 71 pitches, St. Francis cut M-A's lead to 9-3 on back-to-back homers by Kyle Macey and Dennis Duran. After Gilbertson hit leadoff hitter Braden Bishop, Patrick Moriarty was summoned from the bullpen to relieve Gilbertson.
Moriarty surrendered a single to Jon Nelson, but then struck out No. 3 hitter Tyler Goeddel on a pitch in the dirt. Cleanup hitter Alex Blandino followed with a two-run double to right-center, cutting M-A's lead to 9-5. Moriarty induced Scotty Jarvis to fly out to center, and then struck out Hoo looking on a 2-2 fastball to end the game.
This was a quintessential team win for the Bears, who received contributions from everyone on the squad. Ten different M-A players had base hits -- in addition to Hansen's 4-for-4 performance, Casey Eason, Jeff Keller, and Warren enjoyed multiple-hit days with two apiece. M-A played air-tight defense, committing just one error, and the Bears laid down five successful sacrifice bunts.
In improving his season record to 8-2, Gilbertson scattered eights hits, walking none while allowing four runs, all earned. In addition to Warren's 4 RBI, Hansen (2 RBI) and Eason (one RBI) also drove in runs for the victorious Bears.
Menlo School opened the CCS playoffs with a convincing 11-1 victory over visiting North Monterey County on Wednesday in a mercy rule-shortened contest. The No. 3-seeded Knights (22-6) jumped out in front in the first when, after two walks, cleanup hitter up Jake Bruml hit a tremendous three-run homer to left center.
In the second inning, Menlo added three more with the key hit being Danny Diekroeger's two-run double. Sophomore lefthander Jake Batchelder was stellar on the mound as he ran his season record to 9-0 with a five-inning complete game. He struck out six and allowed only two hits.
The Knights tacked on five runs in the bottom fourth and then ended the game in the top of the fifth by throwing out a runner at the plate on the front end of a double steal. Menlo next faces Live Oak game on Saturday in the Monterey area. Live Oak defeated San Lorenzo Valley, 6-5.
In Soledad, No. 13 Sacred Heart Prep saw its season end in a tough 9-8 loss to No. 4 Soledad (23-4). The Gators (15-12-1) had plenty of offense with 14 hits as senior Bryan Kohrs had four of them while driving in two runs. Charlie Bradford, Ryan Lockareff and Tomas O'Donnell all had four hits while Cal Baloff drove in a pair of runs with a double in the third.
Sacred Heart Prep took an 8-6 lead with three runs in the top of the fifth, but the host team chipped away with solo runs over the next four innings to pull out the victory. John Geary and Kevin Wilkins allowed 13 hits.