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By Keith Peters
It was a big day for Menlo School athletic teams, but not quite a perfect one, as three of four squads all earned significant victories on Wednesday.
The boys' tennis team advanced to the Central Coast Section finals, the baseball squad pulled into a tie for first place, and the boys' lacrosse team moved on to the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League finals.
The only team to miss out was the boys' golf squad, which tied for fourth place at the CCS Regional II tournament in Carmel Valley but failed to advance after losing a tiebreaker to Menlo-Atherton.
In tennis, top-seeded Menlo advanced to the CCS Team Tournament final with a 7-0 win over Monta Vista at the Courtside Club in Los Gatos. In Friday's final (2 p.m.), the Knights (24-1) will face third-seeded Bellarmine (19-3), which upended No. 2-seeded Saratoga, 5-2, in the other semifinal.
Menlo is one victory from setting a CCS record with 10 team championships. The Knights have faced the Bells twice this season -- once in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals and the other in a nonleague match – and swept both times. The Knights will try to win their third straight section crown on Friday.
Menlo has a "tough" day of practice scheduled before the title match.
"We have to keep the intensity," Menlo coach Bill Shine said. "We have to remember there's no letting up. They're in great shape. At this point, it's more mental than anything."
The Knights cruised Wednesday as sophomore Andrew Ball defeated Amreet Mohanty, 6-3, 6-3 at the No. 1 singles spot. Junior Justin Chan took a 6-1, 6-2 decision over Nathan Law at No. 2 singles. Sophomore Richard Pham, at No. 3 singles, was exceptionally sharp, Shine said, in a 6-0, 6-0 win over Edwin Chan. Senior Andrew Carlisle made it a sweep with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Edward Ang.
At No. 1 doubles, sophomore Daniel Morkovine teamed with freshman JT Nishimura for a 6-2, 6-0 win over Ryan Mui and Jeremy Lui. Senior Kyle Sum and freshman David Ball shut out Saxon Day and Tsuke Goto, 6-0, 6-0, at No.2 doubles. Sophomores Michael Hoffman and William Boyd downed Jonathan Tsao and Sunde Chaluvaldi, 6-2, 6-0.
A nine-run, fourth-inning explosion blew open the game as host Menlo earned a share of first place in the West Bay Athletic League baseball race with a convincing 12-5 win over Sacred Heart Prep.
The Knights are 8-1 in league (21-5 overall) with one game remaining -- against visiting King's Academy on Friday at 4 p.m. A win would assure Menlo of at least a share of the WBAL title before the defending CCS Division III champion heads to the section playoffs for the 23rd time in the past 24 seasons. The Gators (15-11), also 8-1, play Pinewood on Friday to close out the season. SHP and Menlo split their season series.
Behind some clutch hitting by Ian Lynch and some Menlo defensive mistakes, Sacred Heart Prep jumped out to a 4-2 advantage, heading into the bottom of the fourth inning. Menlo scored nine runs on just eight hits while sending 14 batters to the plate. Freshman Mikey Diekroeger who had two of his four hits and junior Freddy Avis who had a two-run double in the frame.
Avis also belted a titanic solo home run in the fifth and finished with three RBI. Dylan Mayer, Robert Wickers and Diekroeger all had two RBI. Junior Jake Batchelder came on in relief in the fifth and threw three outstanding innings to shut down the potent Gators attack to preserve the win for Avis (8-1).
In the PAL Bay Division, Cam Winn slammed a home run in his final regular-season home game, but it wasn't enough as the Menlo-Atherton baseball team dropped a tough 4-3 decision to Burlingame on Senior Day. The Bears fell to 5-8 in league (15-11 overall). Senior Myles Brewer had two hits for the Bears in addition to making three solid catches in center field. He drove in Casey Eason with M-A\'s third run in the sixth after Burlingame had taken a 4-2 lead. M-A , however, managed just four hits while the Panthers had 11.
Seven M-A seniors were honored before the game, including Kyle Zirbes, Isaac Block, Michael Abramson, Chace Warren, Brewer, Winn and Eason.
Menlo-Atherton advanced to the CCS championships after tying with Menlo School and winning a tiebreaker following the CCS Regional II tournament Wednesday at Rancho Canada-West Golf Course in Carmel Valley. Both teams tied for fourth, the final playoff spot, with scores of 394. The tiebreaker came down to the lowest total team score over the final nine holes. The Bears had fewer strokes from the 13th through 18th holes and thus moved on.
Travis Anderson and David McNamara each shot a 5-over 76 to pace the Bears while Menlo senior Patrick Grimes and sophomore teammate Andrew Buchanan had even-par 71s to advance to the CCS finals as individuals.
Sophomore Wiley Osborne scored the winning goal in overtime to carry Menlo to a 10-9 victory over visiting Menlo-Atherton in the SCVAL semifinals. The Bears held a 9-8 lead late in the fourth quarter before Menlo sophomore Nick Schultz scored the tying goal to force overtime. The Knights (15-7), who were upset in the SCVAL semifinals last year, now advance to the playoff championship on Saturday at Woodside High at 1 p.m. Menlo will face Mountain View, which eliminated defending champ Palo Alto, 11-8, in the other semifinal.
With sophomore Charlotte Biffar scoring five goals, Palo Alto moved on to the championship match of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League playoffs with a 15-9 semifinal victory over visiting Los Gatos on Wednesday. The Vikings (14-7) will defend their title on Saturday at Woodside High at 11 a.m.
Kimmie Flather scored three goals with Layla Memar, Leigh Dairaghi and Nina Kelty all adding two for Paly, which grabbed an 8-3 halftime lead. The Wildcats (9-7), however, rallied in the second half as the Vikings suffered two back-to-back yellow-card penalties with 13 and 11 minutes left to play. Paly played for more than a minute while down two players and Los Gatos took advantage to get to within 10-8.
Once the yellow cards were released, Paly coach Jamie Nesbitt called a timeout to regroup. The Vikings did just that and scored five unanswered goals.