This strange season didn’t end like the Los Altos High baseball team wanted, but head coach Gabe Stewart said the Eagles should be proud of their run to the Central Coast Section Division III title game.
“Only 12 teams in the section get to be playing on championship day, so there is nothing to be ashamed of,” Stewart said after Burlingame beat host Los Altos 10-2 in Saturday’s final. “In the end, Burlingame made more plays today and they earned the championship, but we had a great season where we had to overcome a lot of adversity and, for the most part, we did.”
The fourth-seeded Eagles went from not knowing there would even be a season – thanks to the pandemic – to squeezing in 23 games over a season shortened to seven weeks.
They also played without five seniors who left the team for reasons that included conflicting sports, moving out of state and personal issues, according to the coach. That led to Los Altos relying heavily on freshmen and sophomores; Stewart said he placed up to four of them in the starting lineup this spring.
“It was tough losing those seniors, as they provided talent, experience and stability,” he added. “Luckily our young guys stepped up.”
The veteran players did their part as well. Senior Aaron Parker, who slugged a solo home run and triple in Saturday’s final, batted a team-best .562 for the season. Over his four-year varsity career, the UC Santa Barbara-bound catcher hit .489, registered an on-base percentage of .583, drove in 107 runs and belted 26 homers.
“As great as his statistics are, and they speak for themselves, the one thing everyone will remember about Aaron will be the fact he was a great teammate who made everyone around him better and never turned down an opportunity to help his fellow players,” Stewart said. “Always down to earth, always one of the fellas, always treated everyone with respect and made sure to connect with everyone on the team.”
The team’s second-best hitter, Aidan Brenner, had two singles and an RBI versus Burlingame. For the year, the junior hit .552 with 12 doubles, two triples and four homers. Nick Teng didn’t have a hit Saturday, but the junior had 33 on the season to finish third in that category for Los Altos. Teng batted .379.
Los Altos matched Burlingame as far as hits Saturday (nine each), but the Eagles left more runners on base. The No. 6 Panthers routinely got a hit when they needed it, according to Stewart, while Los Altos’ rallies were often thwarted by opportune defensive plays by Burlingame. The Eagles (14-12) didn’t help themselves in the field; they made four errors.
The game was tied at 1 after the first inning – with Brenner’s single knocking in Parker – and Los Altos seized its lone lead in the third. That’s when Parker followed his first-frame triple with an opposite-field homer.
Burlingame (18-9) evened the score in the fourth and put up four runs in the fifth to take control of the game. The Panthers added four more runs in the seventh for good measure.
Los Altos, which subdued Santa Cruz 12-0 in the semifinals three days earlier, will look to make another deep playoff run next spring.
“Hopefully this lays the foundation for more success in the future,” Stewart said. “It has been an unprecedented run for Los Altos baseball – CCS finals in 2017, CCS champs in 2018, came up short in 2019, no playoffs in 2020 due to the pandemic and now CCS finals in 2021. Three out of four playoffs held over the past five years, and we’re in the finals. … It’s a lofty goal to live up to, but I know the returning players are excited to work to maintain the standard.”