As a freshman last year, Justin Nam didn’t get to contribute much to Menlo School’s Central Coast Section Division II championship baseball team. This year, however, the Los Altos Hills resident played a significant role in the Knights’ successful defense of the title.
The infielder and relief pitcher was twice called upon to get the final out in the playoffs, and he took care of business in both one-run games.
That included the May 27 title game against Burlingame, with Menlo leading 1-0 in the seventh inning. When starter Griff McGarry reached his pitch-count limit with two away and nobody on base, Nam moved from shortstop to the mound to close it out.
“I was fortunate to get the chance to come in,” he said, “and I wanted to make it quick and easy.”
That’s exactly what Nam did by inducing the first batter he faced to ground out to second base, prompting his teammates to rush the mound in celebration.
“It was pretty exciting,” he said.
Nam added that he wasn’t nearly as nervous as he was a week earlier when he took the ball against Half Moon Bay in the seventh inning of the quarterfinals. Facing runners on first and second, he got the last out to preserve the Knights’ 2-1 victory.
Nam, who reached base three times in the final, wasn’t the lone local resident to help Menlo claim the crown. Mountain View resident Chandler Yu served as the Knights’ No. 2 pitcher this season and fellow senior Justin Kasser of Los Altos started in right field.
Yu also played second base and shortstop, and hit in the middle of the order.
“He leads by example,” Nam said of Yu, one of the team captains. “He goes out and gets it done.”
Nam described Kasser as “a leader without being a captain.” He was among the best bunters on the squad and was also known for driving in runs in two-out situations, according to Nam, who added that Kasser didn’t commit a single error in right field.
Nam said this year’s Menlo team, which entered the playoffs as the 11th seed, won the title with teamwork. The Knights (19-10-1) outscored their four playoff foes by a combined 20-6.
“They were all just team efforts,” he said. “We all just came together and pulled through.”
And Menlo did so with a team that looked vastly different from last season’s version. The Knights lost 11 players to graduation a year ago.
“The expectations were not as high (this year), but I knew we had a very good team,” Nam said. “I knew we had a shot to win it, especially with our pitching.”