No baseball team in the SCVAL De Anza Division has scored more runs than Los Altos High this season, but the Eagles weren’t able to put one across the plate when they needed it most.
Palo Alto edged host Los Altos 1-0 in Friday’s regular-season finale, preventing the Eagles from clinching a share of the division title. Swept by Paly in the two-game series, Los Altos (11-3 league) slipped to second place; Los Gatos (12-2) secured first by routing Mountain View 10-1 Friday.
“It was a tough loss to swallow,” said Eagles head coach Gabe Stewart, whose team has dropped three straight games after winning 13 in a row, “because I really think there were opportunities to be had and they just didn’t happen.”
Despite being held to one hit Friday, Los Altos (21-4 overall) had several opportunities to score. The Eagles left four runners in scoring position over the first three innings. They loaded the bases with two away in the first, which ended with a grounder to first base. Los Altos had runners on first and second with one out in the second when Paly pulled pitcher Zander Darby after he walked his fourth batter of the day.
Enter Ryan Harvey, a sophomore making his varsity-pitching debut. After getting out of that jam, he allowed only one Eagle to get as far as second base the rest of the game (third inning). Harvey kept Los Altos off balance with precision – not power; he didn’t strike out a single batter on the way to the win.
“I really hope this makes us stronger, because the bottom line is if anyone watched this game, guess what we’re going to see in the playoffs?” Stewart said. “They’re not going to throw anyone hard; they’re going to throw guys like that. And hats off to their pitcher – he threw strikes, he kept it on the outside part of the plate and he let us get ourselves out.”
Zach Fuchs accounted for the Eagles’ lone hit of the game, a single off Harvey, who walked three. He set down Los Altos in order in the fifth and sixth. After allowing Conner Kendall to reach first on a walk to start the bottom of the seventh, Harvey induced a pop up, ground ball and fly ball to end the game.
“We needed to adjust and make him pitch to us,” Stewart said. “We came to him and there were a lot of off-your-front-foot, lazy fly balls.”
The Vikings (10-4 league, 17-9 overall) produced 10 hits and scored their run in the fourth. Los Altos ace Ryan Baum got the first two batters out, then University of Oregon-bound Josh Kasevich ripped a 3-2 fastball nearly 350 feet for a double. Kyle Mostofizadeh followed with an opposite-field single that scored Kasevich.
“I think I pitched the game that I wanted to, but I could have made a few better pitches here and there,” said Baum, whose complete-game effort included four strikeouts and no walks. “I don’t think there’s really anything to complain about that I did. But I’m not really worried about what I did; I’m just really bummed that we came out on the losing end.”
All is not lost for Los Altos, however. The Eagles can still claim a share of the league crown by winning this week’s De Anza Division tournament. Los Altos was scheduled to begin play today against an opponent not yet determined when the Town Crier went to press.
Winning that would only further the Eagles’ pursuit of a berth in the Open Division of the Central Coast Section playoffs. Only the top eight teams in CCS make the Open, decided by a committee.
“I think we would be really excited to play in the Open,” Stewart said. “It’s a bad time to have a losing streak, but I hope our overall body of work still speaks to it.”
Baum, who helped Los Altos win the CCS Division I title last year, is hopeful as well.
“I think that would be a great challenge for us,” the senior said of the Open. “Last year we were in Division I and that was a great challenge. I think in the Open, the teams just get even better. The way we’ve been playing this year, it would be a great test for us.”
The Eagles have to put Friday’s loss behind them first, and Stewart is confident they will.
“These guys are a great team,” he said. “I’m proud of them, but it just hurts right now.”