In a battle of district rivals trying to remain in the upper half of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League, Los Altos High swept Mountain View last week in the opening round of the SCVAL De Anza Division baseball tournament.
The Eagles (14-14 overall, 5-9 league) are now assured a spot in the De Anza Division next season – despite what happens in this week’s best-of-three series against Homestead (15-12, 7-7).
The Spartans (11-17, 4-10) must win twice against Gunn (2-26, 0-14) this week to avoid dropping into the El Camino Division next year.
Los Altos, which clipped visiting Mountain View 5-4 in the May 6 series opener, rallied late to beat the visiting Spartans 8-4 Thursday.
Down 4-3 in the top of the seventh, the Eagles scored four times off three Spartan pitchers – including starting pitcher Nico Mayoral – to seize the series. Centerfielder Chase Eller, who spent the bulk of the regular season sidelined with a hip injury, capped the comeback with a two-out, two-run single to right field.
“We always talk about weathering storms during the first part of a game and how important it is to win the fifth, sixth and seventh innings – and that’s kind of what you saw today,” head coach Donnie Ecker said after the win.
Ecker credited his pitching staff with keeping the game within reach. Starter Matt Bicker went four innings, allowing four runs (three earned) while striking out three before giving way to a trio of relievers – Daniel Pefley, Drew Coan and Trevor Rogers – to close it out.
Ecker lauded pitching coach Tim Tabke for implementing a new strategy that calls for the team’s regular starting pitchers to be utilized as late-inning relievers.
“We had to reevaluate where we’re at and we thought the best idea is to kind of flip the perception of what a (starting pitcher) is,” Ecker said. “So now our starters are throwing the fourth through seventh innings of games. … Our plan is just to keep getting stronger as the game goes along.”
Mountain View head coach Zeph Zinsman said he was pleased with his team’s effort in a year largely dedicated to rebuilding the school’s baseball program.
“Our goal is to play hard,” he said. “We’re not really worried about wins and losses. Our goal is to compete each pitch, each out – and we did that this week.”
Down 4-3 in the top of the seventh, the Eagles loaded the bases on a walk, a hit batter and a single before Paul Myers drew a walk to tie the game. Patrick McColl later added a one-out RBI single to regain the lead before a dropped popup in right field scored Adam Spielman for a 6-4 edge – followed by Eller’s two-run single.
Rogers came on in relief and shut the door on the Spartan offense, allowing a leadoff walk before inducing two groundouts and a game-ending fly ball to preserve the win.
The turn of events came after the Eagles saw their 3-1 lead disappear in the bottom of the fourth when the Spartans put together a three-run rally. The Spartans first cut the lead to 3-2 on an RBI groundout from designated hitter Vince Paul Bauloy to drive in Reagen Mszanowski, who led off the inning with a double. Dwight Washington added a two-out, two-run double for a 4-3 lead.
The Spartans’ three-run effort came one inning after the Eagles bounced back from an early 1-0 deficit, tying the game on a walk and back-to-back infield errors before adding runs on a sacrifice fly by Duke Myers and an RBI single from Rogers.
Myers slugged a two-run homer in the opening game, one of the Eagles’ 14 hits.
Los Altos is scheduled to visit Homestead 4 p.m. Thursday in the second game of the series (the opener was played Tuesday after the Town Crier’s press deadline) and, if necessary, would host the Mustangs Friday at the same time.
Mountain View is slated to visit Homestead 4 p.m. today.
2014 baseball: Los Altos High School vs. Mountain View High School - Photos by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier