● Go to PASportsOnline.com for the best local sports coverage.
Click on pictures to enlarge.
By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Freddy Avis spent Friday night chillin' out on the couch in front of his television set, watching "Mystic River." The idea was to relax and not do anything active.
Avis certainly mystified the No. 8-seeded Santa Cruz baseball team as he threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings and No. 3-seeded Menlo School (26-5) went on to beat the Cardinals, 4-0, in the championship game of the Central Coast Section Division III tournament at San Jose Muni Stadium on Saturday.
"It was an intense movie, so I guess that got me intense," Avis said after allowing three hits, striking out six and not walking anybody before giving way to reliever Jake Bruml, who finished a four-hit shutout, though it was anything but a routine finish.
"He's a stud," Menlo third baseman Robert Wickers said of Avis. "There's a reason why we voted him our team MVP. He's been doing that all year. Jake came in and shut them down. That's a pretty good 1-2 punch. They both came through in the clutch."
Avis and Bruml combined to win 20 of 23 decisions and record four saves this season. They also each drove in an insurance run in the sixth inning on Saturday.
Avis reached base in all four at-bats, walking three times before delivering an RBI single. Bruml was 1-of-2 with an RBI, a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
Jake Batchelder and Mikey Diekroeger also drove in runs for the Knights.
"Those guys made the plays behind me," Avis said. "I'm not going to strike out a lot of people and those guys make me feel confident to make pitches."
Menlo won its second straight CCS title and its fifth overall. The Knights went back-to-back for the first time since 1988-89, also under coach Craig Schoof. They also won in 2004, when current pitching coach Chuck Huggins played for Menlo.
"There are some of the same guys from last year and we had high expectations," Wickers said. "I think we had a great mentality toward the season."
Diekroeger, a constant fan when older brothers Kenny and Danny played for the Knights, can add his own family touch to Menlo's legacy. The freshman second baseman batted fifth and solidified the infield.
Diekroeger wasn't in Schoof's original plans. He came to baseball late because of his commitment to basketball and was told at his first practice he wouldn't be on the varsity.
"I could accept that because I felt I needed to prove myself," Diekroeger said. "He asked me to suit up for a game and I started doing OK, so I kept suiting up with the varsity and I guess I showed I could help fill a hole. I just kept playing the next game."
Wickers, Benton, Bruml and fellow seniors Philip Anderson, Kamyaar Butt, Sam Fancher and Jack Suiter will leave some holes, but the return of Avis, Diekroeger, Batchelder, Marcus and Dylan Mayer certainly give the Knights a solid foundation as they set about the pursuit of a three-peat next season.