Baseball strives for SCVAL tournament victory

    After struggling out of the gates in a three-game series against the Wilcox High School Chargers (15-15, 7-7), the Palo Alto High School baseball team (23-6, 13-1) bounced back and dominated the final two games of the series, last Thursday and Friday.

    The Vikings hope to secure first place in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League tournament today against the Mountain View Spartans (19-9-1, 8-6) in another three-game series and take their winning streak into the Central Coast Section playoff finals at the San Jose Municipal Stadium.

    Last week, the Vikings forced a deciding game against the Chargers to send them into the SCVAL championships. On Friday, the third game of the three-game series, ended with a Viking win. After a slow start, the Vikings came out strong in the fifth inning, scoring all four of its runs.

    Senior centerfielder Ben Cleasby led the Vikings offense with a one hit and two RBI’s.

    “In beating Wilcox we just needed to keep our cool,” Cleasby said. “We definitely wanted to get through that game as smooth as possible and just keep hitting the ball up the middle. We did a good job in sticking to our plan and as usual, our pitching really made it easy for us to come out with a win.”

    The Vikings defense was led by sophomore first baseman Josh Kasevich who contributed to 11 outs on the defensive end and one assist.

    “We played solid defense on Friday and strung hits together to start a rally,” Kasevich said. “This week, we need to attack early at the plate and have seven strong innings of defense.”

    Senior pitcher Aron Ecoff had a win on Friday with four strikeouts over seven innings.

    “We struggled with hitting early on, but we always find a way to get the job done,” Ecoff said. “Despite a scoreless four innings, we didn’t fold and found a way to start a rally. With the bats, pitching and work ethic we possess, it was no wonder the better team emerged from the series against Wilcox.”

    In this upcoming series, the Vikings will face tougher competition against the Spartans who are coming off two big wins against the Los Gatos High School Wildcats (18-10-1, 9-5).

    “We need to keep our approach at the plate,” Cleasby said. “Just stick to our ‘yes yes’ mentality and look to hit the ball middle away. Mountain View’s nothing intimidating and we have the better team so we just need to stick to what we’ve been doing all season and play clean baseball

    The Spartans were the only team to beat the Vikings during the regular De Anza League season, ruining Paly’s perfect league record. The Vikings beat Mountain View during one of their two match-ups during the regular season, winning 3-1 and losing one game on a walk-off hit 3-2.

    Today, senior pitcher Ryan Chang will be pitching for the Vikings. Chang has five pitching wins on the season, a 1.73 ERA and 40 strikeouts.

    The Vikings need to shut down senior shortstop Tommy Cruz, who leads the DAL with a .492 batting average, .694 slugging percentage and .565 on base percentage.

    The Vikings will also take on the Spartans at 4 p.m. on Thursday at Mountain View High School.

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