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St. Francis celebrates first CCS baseball title since 2001

Photo By: Town Crier file photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo St. Francis High senior Michael Strem contributed on the mound and at the plate during the Central Coast Section playoffs.

The St. Francis High baseball team has a lot to celebrate at today’s season-ending party. More than a week ago, the Lancers won their first Central Coast Section championship in 12 years and the first under head coach Mike Oakland.

“It should be a lot of fun,” said Oakland, who just completed his seventh season at St. Francis.

Michael Strem, whose pitching and hitting played a big part in the Lancers’ postseason success, seemed just as eager to reunite with his teammates to commemorate a year that ended with a 10-0 rout of Serra in the CCS Division I final.

“I’m going to miss all those guys for sure,” said Strem, one of 13 seniors on the squad. “We had such great chemistry, combined with talent, all year long. Even when we were down, we fought back. That was huge.”

The Lancers built such a huge lead against league rival Serra in the May 25 title game that it ended early on the 10-run mercy rule. St. Francis scored twice in the fourth inning, added five runs in the fifth and three in the sixth to finish off the Padres at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium.

Although Strem said he “felt confident” the Lancers (30-4 overall) would hit well in the final, he never imagined the game would be so one-sided. The teams split their two West Catholic Athletic League contests.

“I thought it was going to be a pitchers’ duel,” Strem said. “But we jumped on them early, and John had some of the best stuff I’ve seen him throw.”

That would be starting pitcher John Gavin. The lefthander surrendered just one hit and had a perfect game going until the fifth.

Yet Gavin’s complete-game effort, which included eight strikeouts, was only the second-best performance by a St. Francis pitcher during the playoffs. Strem pitched a perfect game – the first in school history – in the Lancers’ opening-round win over Monta Vista.

Each pitcher won two CCS games, with junior Gavin never allowing a run and Strem surrendering three.

For the season, Gavin notched 90 strikeouts and posted a 1.28 ERA, while Strem fanned 79 batters and had a 1.31 ERA.

“We tried to outdo each other every week,” Strem said. “He’d get a shutout and I’d try to match him, and vice-versa.”

This marked Strem’s first season as a varsity pitcher; he primarily played the infield as a sophomore and junior.

“I knew he could pitch – we just didn’t need him – but I didn’t think he’d be this dominant,” Oakland said. “He was phenomenal in CCS – he was lights out on the mound and did a great job at the plate.”

The Boston College-bound Strem recorded five hits and six RBIs in the postseason. Two of these hits came in the final.

Strem was among three starters who batted above .400 this season (along with Chris Baker and Champi Lucca); five Lancers hit at least .300 (Mark Cardinalli, Tyler Deason, Austin Guibor, Kort Peterson and Hunter Simmons).

While stats are nice, Oakland noted that St. Francis’ intangibles were just as important to the team’s winning ways.

“The chemistry was as good as it’s ever been,” the coach said. “They were the most focused and hardest-working group I’ve had in high school or college.”

Five team members are Los Altos residents: Lucca, Matt Bell, Brent Jarvis, Patrick McMullen and Casey Douglas. All of them played Los Altos-Mountain View PONY Baseball.

– Joe Schram contributed to this report

For more photos of the St. Francis High School baseball team, click here.

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