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SHP upends Menlo in crucial league showdown

 

After starting the season with just one victory in seven games, the Sacred Heart Prep baseball team is finally turning the corner and heading in the right direction following arguably its most important victory of the season.

That arrived on Wednesday as the Gators upended visiting Menlo School, 6-4, in the first of two showdowns in the West Bay Athletic League this season.

Sacred Heart Prep won the first meeting last season, as well, but Menlo came back to take the second as the teams shared the league title. The Knights can only hope for the same, unless the Gators trip up along the way.

There was none of that Wednesday as Sacred Heart Prep played its best game of the season at the most important time. SHP coach Gregg Franceschi said it was just a matter of putting the pitching, defense and timely hitting together at the same time.

"Hopefully, this is the one that really gets us moving in the right direction," Franceschi said.

Menlo, the defending Central Coast Section Division III champ, came in with a shiny 12-1 record and plenty of momentum, while Sacred Heart Prep came in with a lackluster 7-8 mark and looked like easy picking for the Knights. SHP junior starter Jack Larson, however, changed all that as his off-speed pitches kept Menlo's hitters off balance all day while scattering 10 hits by the Knights.

Sacred Heart scored the tying and winning runs in the fourth and senior Tomas O'Donnell capped the scoring with a solo homer in the fifth. Menlo had taken a 4-0 lead in the top of the third.

In the bottom of the fourth, SHP's Ian Lynch had a one-out infield hit and Larson followed with a single to right. Menlo replaced starting pitcher Jake Bruml with Freddy Avis, who walked catcher Mike Covell to load the bases. Zack Buono grounded to Bruml at first and Bruml made a throwing error at home, allowing Lynch to score and tie the game at 4.

Matt Martella then hit a sacrifice fly to score Larson, putting the Gators ahead by 5-4.

SHP had only six hits but Cal Baloff had a pair of RBI and the Gators played errorless ball to take control of the WBAL race at 3-0. The Knights (2-1, 12-2), who got three hits (including two doubles) from Avis, will host SHP in the teams' second meeting on May 11.

In San Jose, Palo Alto ended its three-game losing streak by handing Scotts Valley a 2-1 loss in the second round of the Baseball Battling Cancer Tournament at Leland High.

The Vikings (12-7) will wrap up tourney play on Saturday against Soquel (4 p.m.) at Leland, before hosting Bellarmine on Monday (4 p.m.) in a nonleague makeup game. Cory Tenanes had two hits and drove in a run against Scotts Valley, which managed just six hits off Paly's Drake Swezey, who pitched a complete game.

Boys' golf

Menlo School remained undefeated in the West Bay Athletic League as senior Patrick Grimes fired a 3-under-par 33 to lead the Knights to a 193-230 victory over Pinewood at Palo Alto Municipal on Wednesday.

Grimes had three birdies and six pars in his superlative round as Menlo improved to 8-0. The last time Grimes played on this course, he won the Titan Challenge with a 7-under 65 for 18 holes.

Menlo sophomore Andrew Buchanan continued his fine season with an even-par 36 while senior Bobby Pender shot 38. Juniors Jackson Dean and James Huber rounded out the scoring with 43s.

Boys' lacrosse

Frankie Hattler scored four goals and added four assists to pace Sacred Heart Prep to a 13-7 victory over visiting Woodside in a WBAL match on Wednesday. The Gators (9-0, 13-3) retained their hold on first place as Duncan Hoskinson added four goals and Trevor Ruegg contributed two, while goalie Mark Oppenheimer came up with 17 saves. Woodside fell to 6-3 in league (7-4 overall).

Track and field

For the first time since Menlo School joined the WBAL for the 2008-09 season, both the boys and girls teams took first place in a league meet, at home on Wednesday.

It was the third WBAL meet of the season. The girls finished with 116 points, ahead of Mercy-San Francisco (83) and Pinewood (81), among six teams. The boys ran away with the team title with 216 points. The Knights' nearest competitor among the four teams was Priory (83).

In the girls' events, freshman Maddy Price won the 400 in 1:01.23 seconds and the 800 in 2:25.20. Fellow freshman Sienna Stritter took second in the 400 in 1:03.35.

Sophomore Laura Gradiska took first in the 100 hurdles in 18.19 and second in the 300 hurdles in 52.20. Price, Stritter and Gradiska teamed with sophomore Ellie Still to win the 400 relay in 51.81. Sophomore Gabby Shaw took second in the 1,600 in 6:34.15 and freshman Maddie Huber was third in the 100 hurdles (18.65).

For the boys, Menlo senior Sam Parker won the 800 in 2:05.80 and freshman Matt Myers was second in 2:06.72. They were one-two in the 1,600, as well, with Parker finishing in 4:42.46 and Myers in 4:45.21.

Senior Jordan Williams won the 300 hurdles in 47.08 and senior John Shanley was second in 47.84. Menlo swept the top three spots in long jump -- Williams was first at 19-8 1/4, junior Alec Drobac second in 18-9 and senior Kevin Ji was third with a 16-4. Shanley won the 110 high hurdles in 18.24 and the triple jump at 39-7.

Williams was second with a 37-2 1/2 in addition to taking second in the high jump. Shanley also joined sophomore Max Parker, freshman Travis Chambers and junior Martin Keyt in the 400 relay, which took second.

Senior Matt Lam won shot put with a toss of 38-2 and Mafileo Tupou was second. Lam, senior Christian Fajardo and Tupou took the top three spots in discus.

The Knights compete in the fourth and final regular-season WBAL meet on Wednesday, April 27, at Sacred Heart Prep.

● Check out more of the Midpeninsula's best local sports coverage at PASportsOnline.com.

-- Palo Alto Online Sports/Pam McKenney on Menlo track and field

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