Senior center fielder Wally Hansen executed a perfect suicide squeeze bunt, scoring junior Chace Warren, as host Menlo-Atherton defeated Burlingame, 8-7, in eight innings Friday afternoon.
The victory earned M-A a split in its important PAL Bay Division series with Burlingame, improving the Bears' league mark to 5-1 and overall record to 11-7. Burlingame fell to 12-5-1 overall and 2-3 in league play.
M-A players, coaches, and fans breathed a huge sigh of relief as the Bears survived after squandering leads of 6-0 and 7-2. Burlingame fought back with two unearned runs in the fifth and five more runs in the sixth inning on four hits (two doubles), three walks, and a couple of M-A errors.
After relieving Myles Brewer with two outs in the top of the sixth, Warren surrendered a two-run double to Burlingame's Forrest Armanino, but then induced Saamy Phan to hit into an inning-ending groundout with the score tied 7-7. Warren pitched scoreless baseball from that point on to earn the victory, escaping the seventh inning on a double play, and shutting out Burlingame in the top of eighth despite hitting a batter.
Facing Burlingame closer Chris Blanton, Warren was hit by a pitch leading off the bottom of the eighth inning and advanced to second on Louis McCabe's single. Warren and McCabe then advanced to second and third, respectively, on a passed ball. After Burlingame walked Patrick Moriarty intentionally to load the bases, Hansen laid down a perfect bunt to score Warren and place M-A in the thick of the PAL Bay Division title chase.
M-A took advantage of six Burlingame errors in the first three innings to take a 6-0 lead.
In the first, senior catcher Jeff Keller singled, stole second, advanced to third on an infield single by Kyle Zirbes, and scored on a double steal. Zirbes later scored when Burlingame misplayed Warren's ground ball.
In the second inning, M-A tallied three more times on three Burlingame errors, three base hits (Hansen, Keller, and Zirbes), and Chris Gow's steal of home. Another M-A run scored in the third when Warren reached on an error, stole second, advanced to third on an errant pickoff attempt, and scored on a wild pitch.
Meanwhile, senior pitcher Nils Gilbertson was cruising, shutting out Burlingame over the first four innings on three hits. Overall, Gilbertson yielded six hits and five runs (just two earned) over 5 2/3 innings, before giving way to Brewer with two outs in the sixth.
Menlo-Atherton returns to action on Wednesday with a PAL Bay Division contest at Aragon.
A few miles away, another exciting finish took place as Sacred Heart Prep senior Bryan Kohrs slammed a two-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning to lift the host Gators to a 4-3 victory over visiting Menlo in a West Bay Athletic League baseball showdown on Friday. The game-winning hit was the third hit of the game for Kohrs, who finished with three RBI for the Gators (2-0, 6-8-1). Menlo dropped to 1-1 in league (11-6 overall).
Menlo had taken a 2-0 lead in the second on a walk to Phil Anderson, a single by Robert Wickers and a triple by sophomore Dylan Mayer. Mayer also hit a solo homer over the rightfield fence in the top of the seventh to give Menlo a 3-2 lead.
Victory seemed further out of reach for SHP after Menlo starter Freddy Avis induced a comebacker to start the bottom of the seventh. Avis, who had allowed only three hits to that point, then gave up a single by Bryan Munks and Kohrs followed with the first homer of his career.
Kevin Wilkins came on in relief for starter Patrick McNamara in the seventh and got the win. Sacred Heart will be back in action Saturday morning against visiting Lowell (San Francisco) at 11 a.m.
In nonleague action, Palo Alto dominated visiting Leigh from San Jose, 15-3, as the Vikings won their 12th straight and 14th in the past 15 games while improving to 17-3 overall.
Palo Alto remains 10-0 in the SCVAL De Anza Division but holds a two-game lead over second-place Los Gatos ((8-2), which lost to Wilcox for the second time this week. Should the Vikings sweep Monta Vista this week, they will clinch no worse than a tie for the division title. Paly will close the regular season the following week with two games against Los Gatos, giving the Vikings a chance to win the championship outright.
Christoph Bono and Wade Hauser led the way against Leigh with three hits and two RBI each. Bono had a triple and two doubles. Scott Witte also had three of Paly's 16 hits. Corey Tenanes and Christian Lonsky contributed two RBI each.
Paly scored four times in the first and exploded for eight runs in the second. A handful of pitchers limited Leigh to just four hits, with T.J. Braff getting the win with two scoreless innings.
With senior Tory Wilkinson scoring six goals and Kendall Cody adding four, Sacred Heart Prep cruised to an 18-7 victory over visiting Castilleja in a West Bay Athletic League match. SHP improved to 2-1 in league (10-1 overall). Goalie Victoria Denholm had 17 saves while Kate Lonergan added three goals with Julia Keller and Carolina Hoskinson contributing two each.
Castilleja pitcher Sammy Albanese pitched a four-inning no-hitter with 11 strikeouts, but made the most damage at the plate as she slammed a career-high three home runs and drove in a career-high nine runs in a 21-0 blasting of host Mercy-San Francisco in a West Bay Athletic League softball game on Friday.
The game was halted after four innings due to the 10-run mercy rule. Teammates Gina Freehling and Annie Apffel homered for Castilleja while Mia Taper and Apffel both drove in two runs in the team's most-lopsided victory of the season. The Gators improved to 5-1 in league (10-6-2 overall).