by Keith Peters
Palo Alto Online Sports
Through four innings of Wednesday's showdown for first place in the West Bay Athletic League baseball race, host Menlo had two hits and three runs. Knights' coach Craig Schoof knew that wasn't going to be enough if his team was going to earn a share of the top spot.
"All year you watch them and they (the Gators) never give up," Schoof said. "They're a tough team, a good team. I've been telling my players that."
While the blast gave Sacred Heart Prep new hope, it also provided something for Menlo.
"When we fell behind," Schoof said, "that kind of woke us up."
Did it ever. In the bottom of the fifth, Menlo sent 13 batters to the plate. They rapped out eight hits and produced nine runs. After Phil Anderson led off with a walk and Danny Diekroeger singled, Jake Bruml lined a three-run homer over the left field fence and Menlo had the lead back at 6-4. Back-to-back hits by Dylan Mayer and Clay Robbins (a triple) produced the eventual winning run at 7-4.
Robert Wickers and Jackson Badger both singled and Anderson came up for the second time in the inning and walked again. That set the stage for Diekroeger, a senior who is headed for Stanford next season to join his brother, Kenny, in the Cardinal infield. Danny stepped into a high fastball and deposited it over the left field fence for a grand slam and a 12-4 lead.
The Gators scored two more runs in the top of the seventh, thanks to a throwing error and an RBI single by Spencer Myers. There would be no winning homer this time for SHP, not like in the team's previous meeting when Bryan Kohrs slammed a two-run, walk-off homer to beat the Knights in the bottom of the seventh.
"The one thing we didn't do the last time we played them was finish it off," said Diekroeger, who made sure the Gators wouldn't battle back this time.
"Finding a way to win and close out games has been a battle," said Schoof.
Menlo, however, did both successfully on Wednesday and now stands to share the WBAL title with Sacred Heart Prep if both teams win out. Both squads also will advance to the Central Coast Section playoffs, even though the Knights will get a higher seed based on their win over SHP in the second meeting plus their better overall record.
Jake Batchelder, just a sophomore, picked up his seventh win of the season with no losses with five innings of work. He did, however, have his string of 26 1/3 innings of shutout baseball ended. Bruml came on in relief for the final two innings and allowed both seventh-inning unearned runs.
In another game with first-place hanging in the balance, Carlmont junior lefthander Daniel Madigan threw a complete-game shutout as the visiting Scots defeated Menlo-Atherton, 7-0, on Wednesday afternoon in a PAL Bay Division showdown.
Madigan scattered seven hits, struck out seven, and walked just one in helping Carlmont (7-4, 12-10) to reduce M-A's lead to one game with three league games remaining. The Bears are now 8-3 in league play and 14-9 overall.
M-A threatened in the bottom of the first inning when Casey Eason led off with a single and Jeff Keller walked. Madigan then proceeded to escape the inning with two strikeouts and an infield popup. After that, the Bears struggled to string together base hits against Madigan's accurate fastball and effective off-speed deliveries. Jeff Keller and Wally Hansen led M-A's offense with two singles apiece.
Carlmont took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on a solo homer by catcher Colton Hicks off M-A starting pitcher Patrick Moriarty. The Scots extended their lead to 3-0 in the fourth on three singles and a sacrifice fly to center. Carlmont tallied one more run in the fourth, aided by a misplayed fly ball to the outfield. In taking the loss, Moriarty (3-3) surrendered four runs on seven hits over 4 1/3 innings, striking out two and walking none.
Junior Myles Brewer relieved Moriarty in the fifth, striking out two Scots to keep Carlmont's lead at 4-0. Carlmont used a leadoff double, a wild pitch, and a suicide squeeze bunt in the sixth to take a 5-0 lead, and then scored two more runs in the seventh on an M-A error and a two-run homer by Christian Conte. Brewer struck out three and walked two over 2 2/3 innings of relief.
Menlo-Atherton returns to action on Friday afternoon at Carlmont to conclude the series. The Bears will take on Half Moon Bay the following week to close the regular season.