Paly baseball: “Muni or bust”

    Junior third baseman Niko Lillios celebrates a double play in the top of the fifth inning against Los Gatos High School (19-10-1, 9-5). The Vikings went on to win 7-3.

    Junior third baseman Niko Lillios celebrates a double play in the top of the fifth inning against Los Gatos High School (19-10-1, 9-5). The Vikings went on to win 7-3. Photo by: David Hickey.

    “Muni or bust” has been the motto of the Palo Alto High School baseball team (25-6, 13-1) this season. After clinching the De Anza League title and winning the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League championship against the Mountain View High School Spartans (19-11-1, 8-6), Paly looks to break the “first seed curse”  and advance past the first round of the Central Coast Section playoffs in the open division against the Archbishop Mitty High School Monarchs (15-12-1, 4-9-1) and begin the journey to the top of CCS to play at the San Jose Municipal Stadium.

    Over the past three seasons, Paly has been knocked out of CCS in the first round. Last year, the Vikings held the one-seed and lost to the 16th seed, Valley Christian High School, 2-0. The two seasons prior, the Vikings held lower seeds but still lost in the first round.

    According to senior shortstop Ethan Stern, the team’s ultimate goal is to make it to the CCS semi-finals and finals held at the San Jose Giants stadium, “Muni.”

    “This year we have the best squad we’ve had in a while,” Stern said. “We have the capability to compete with anyone so our goal is to win it all this year.”

    Paly holds the one-seed going into the CCS tournament and will play the 16th seed, Mitty, out of the West Catholic Athletic League at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Paly.

    According to junior second baseman Max Jung-Goldberg, in order for the team to be successful it must control the pace of each game, stay calm and perform to the level it has maintained throughout the regular season and SCVAL playoffs.

    “It’s in our control to swing at good pitches at the plate, make the routine plays on defense and throw strikes on the mound,” Jung-Goldberg said. “Hustle, heart and effort are all within our control. I think if we stay focused on playing our game like we have the whole year, we have a great chance to win against the good teams in the tournament.”

    During the regular season, all DAL and SCVAL games have been played in multiple-game series, whereas the CCS tournament is single elimination. The Vikings will need to win two games to make it to Muni and four to win the CCS championship.

    “With CCS not being a series it’s all hands on deck,” Jung-Goldberg said. “From a pitching standpoint we need our guys to throw the same way they have the whole year. Throw strikes and let the defense do the work. On offense we have to be able to adjust to whoever we are facing and figure out a way to manufacture runs. I think the game against Mitty will be no different from any non-league game we’ve played this year. We just need to play our game and have fun.”

    This Wednesday, senior pitcher Ryan Chang will pitch for the Vikings. Chang has 43 strikeouts on the season and a 2.09 ERA.

    Last week, Paly took on Mountain View in a three-game series for the SCVAL championships. The Vikings won the series in two games, by scores of 7-5 and 5-3

    On Thursday, junior pitcher Spencer Rojahn pitched four innings and maintained a 1.50 ERA, four strikeouts and received the win.

    Senior center fielder Ben Cleasby drove in two runs on a double.

    According to Cleasby, the team needs to maintain its winning mentality in order to make a strong bid in CCS.

    “We want to win CCS, we have the talent and we have the chemistry, we want it all,” Cleasby said. “We’ve walked into every game wanting to win and have never let our focus down knowing there’s a little protection. We just need to know ourselves and keep doing what we’ve been doing all year. Stay focused and continue to play good, clean baseball.”

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