Missed opportunities send Vikings to fourth straight loss; Wildcats clinch division title
Despite multiple chances to take the lead late in the game, the Palo Alto High School Vikings varsity baseball team (11-12, 5-5) fell once again to the Los Gatos Wildcats (20-4, 11-1) in extra innings by a score of 4-3 Saturday at Paly.
The Wildcats finished with 14 hits, scoring early in the second inning on Campbell Robertson’s sacrifice fly. They battered Vikings starter Brian Kannappan in the fourth, when they took advantage of a throwing error by scoring two runs. While Los Gatos threatened to score in the later innings, pitchers Justin Hull and Chris Smith of the Vikings used key strikeouts and timely double plays to prevent the Wildcats from scoring any more.
The Vikings squandered several opportunities to score runs and win the game, but got on the scoreboard in the third when right fielder Phil Lewis hit a sharp ground-ball to the left of shortstop to score center fielder Bowen Gerould.
In the fifth inning, Lewis advanced Gerould to second on a single after Gerould chased starter Johnny Breidenthal by drawing a walk. A wild pitch set up both runners in scoring position, and Cleasby proceeded to score Gerould on an RBI single to center field. Cleasby later came around to score on a wild pitch by the new pitcher Bigge, tying the game at three apiece.
The sixth and seventh innings featured the Vikings getting runners on base, only to have Bigge pitch out of each jam and keep the game tied. With runners at second and third with just one out in the seventh, Bigge got catcher Austin Kron to ground-out softly, before striking out third baseman Noah Phillips.
When Robertson, the Wildcats’ no. 8 hitter in the lineup, stepped into the box to lead off the top of the eighth inning, his one goal was to get on base and represent the go-ahead run. Robertson, a senior, was yet to hit a home run on the season coming into the at-bat. The entire Wildcats’ team had only two total coming into Saturday’s game.
“I looked down at my third base coach and he said that [he] was just giving me the sign to get on base, so I was just trying to get on base,” Robertson said.
With the wind blowing out towards left, Robertson ended up drilling Bicknell’s fastball over the left field fence to give his team a one-run lead. Clapping his hands as he rounded third, the team rushed out of the dugout to greet him at home plate.
“In the eighth, I thought I made a good pitch and he got down to it and hit it out,” Bicknell said, after taking the loss.
Pitcher Hunter Bigge closed out the game with a shut-down bottom of the eighth, securing his team the one-run victory. When Gerould was tagged out at first to end the game, the Wildcats poured onto the diamond once again, mobbing Bigge and crushing him under a dog-pile of ecstatic players. To the great dismay of the Vikings home crowd, the Wildcats had clinched the division title.
“We’ll go out and celebrate a little, come back, get back to work, keep winning, and now we’re looking forward to the league tournament now,” said Robertson, who finished with a team-leading three RBI’s.
Even an extra fly-ball or a ball put into play past the pitcher was the difference between a Vikings win or loss. According to designated hitter Lawrence Han, the team played well against the division’s top team, but ultimately made a few too many mistakes.
“I think we played pretty well but we just had a few bad breaks and there were some things that could have gone our way but didn’t,” Han said.
With just two games remaining on the schedule and a four-game losing streak, the Vikings find themselves sitting in fifth place, one spot outside the playoffs. They take on the Spartans of Mountain View next week, looking to get back to their winning ways.