Mountain View High still had hope in the last inning of Thursday’s baseball game against top seed Palo Alto, but the third-seeded Spartans’ rally came up short and the Vikings prevailed 5-3 to sweep the best-of-three series to determine the league champion.
With the bases loaded and his team down 5-2 with no outs in the seventh, Mountain View’s Grant Gambetta smashed a pitch to left field that the home fans hoped would sail over the fence. Instead, the ball fell shy of the fence and into the glove of Paly’s left fielder. Tristan Silveira tagged from third base to make it a two-run game, but that’s as close at the Spartans would get. Matthew Zepeda grounded into a double play to end the game.
Mountain View, in the finals of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic De Anza Division playoffs for the first time, held a 2-1 lead heading into the sixth. The Spartans (19-11-1 overall) gave up the game’s first run in the top of the third on a throwing error, but they scored twice in the bottom of the frame. With Silveira on third and Bryan Rau on first, Cullen Blanchfield hit a double down the third-base line that barely stayed in fair territory. That scored Silveira and moved Rau to third. Zepeda later singled to score Rau.
This prompted Paly (25-6) to make a pitching change, with Aron Ecoff replacing Spencer Rojahn. Ecoff beaned the first batter he faced, loading the bases. The next batter, Jacob Orlov, flied out, and Michael Capote struck out to end the inning.
The score remained 2-1 in Mountain View’s favor until the top of the sixth. After starting pitcher Rau allowed two runners on after getting the first two batters out, he exceeded his pitch count and coach Kris Mims replaced him with Capote. The reliever surrendered a single to the first batter he faced to load the bases. Ben Cleasby then hit a groundball to shortstop Silveira, whose low throw to first went past Orlov, allowing Max Jung-Goldberg and Niko Lillios to score.
“I shouldn’t have let the runners on in the first place,” Rau said.
Mims added: “It was tough because that’s a play we usually make all year. To Palo Alto’s credit, they always battle. They always battle back, and that’s why they’re probably the top team in CCS. And they continued to work through it until the game’s over.”
Ethan Stern then scored on a wild pitch to give the Vikings a 4-2 lead, but Capote got the next batter to ground out, ending the threat. Paly added another run in the seventh when Connor Burns scored on a fielder’s choice.
In the May 9 series opener, host Paly won 6-5.
Both teams are headed to this week’s Central Coast Section playoffs, and Mims expects his Spartans to perform well.
“(We have) a lot of seniors – a lot of motivation on this team to do well,” he said. “I think we’re going to go deep in the CCS. If we play well, we’ll be OK.”
Mountain View, the second seed in CCS Division I, is set to open at home against No. 11 Salinas (14-13) 4 p.m. today.