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Vikings edge out Spartans in offensive masterclass

Maxwell Zhang
Palo Alto High School senior shortstop Charles Bates smokes a ball down the left side of the field. The Vikings defeated the Mountain View High School Spartans, 9-8, after a rocky start in the first two innings. According to Viking head coach Peter Fukuhara, the Vikings have experience with climbing out of score deficits. “Our club is so deep into our season,” Fukuhara said. “We’ve played 24 or 25 games, and we’re pretty battle-tested by this point. We’ve been down before, so we know what that feels like. Our team doesn’t panic.”

After barely holding onto their lead in the final inning, the Palo Alto High School varsity baseball team (9-3) defeated the Mountain View High School Spartans (6-6), 9-8, in an offensive shootout and a game that was vital to league standings in the DeAnza league.

According to Viking senior shortstop Charles Bates, this match was important for the team’s position in the DeAnza league as they strive to secure a bid for the league championship.

“This game was probably the biggest game of the year so far,” Bates said. “We had to win this one, and luckily Los Gatos [High School Wildcats] lost today. So I think we’re standing right now in second, and if we sweep our next series, we’ll be co-league champions.”

Spartan head coach Jeff Schwan said the Spartans focused on improving their batting after losing to the Vikings in their Wednesday matchup.

“We just kept telling our players to go up there and have a good approach, making sure they’re not just going up there and swinging the bat,” Schwan said. “We felt that in the past few weeks our bats have been great, so we wanted to continue to preach a good approach.”

The Viking’s offense started out slow, with no runs scored in the top of the first inning. This allowed the Spartans to take the lead when they scored the first home run of the game, putting the Spartans up 1-0 early in the game. The second inning saw some action when, at the bottom of the inning, the Spartans loaded the bases after a pitch hit the batter. However, Viking senior pitcher Vincent Braga stopped the momentum by throwing two consecutive strikeouts, ending the inning with the Spartans still up, 1-0.

At the top of the third, the Viking’s offense knew they had to get it together. According to Bates, the team maintained its composure despite falling behind in the first couple of innings.

“We’ve been in that position so many times this year where we’re down, and we’ve learned how to come back as a team,” Bates said. “So we just take it one at-bat at a time. You just string together hits and start scoring runs.”

After Spartan senior pitcher Wes Harwell walked Viking junior center fielder Henry Harding, Bates hit a single which let Harding score, tying the game 1-1. Another walk allowed the Vikings to load the bases, and a couple more hits led to two more home runs, giving the Vikings their first lead of the game, 3-1. Spartan senior outfielder Chase Caringella responded by hitting a single and stealing second base on the next pitch. With one runner on base, Spartan senior second baseman Christian Wenks hit a home run out of the park, tying the game at 3-3. 

The team continued their offensive momentum with Harding, Bates and Viking junior third baseman Dexter Cleveringa able to get on base in the fourth inning. With a deep ball turned into a double from Viking junior outfielder Coco Vonderhaar, all three runners scored, giving the Vikings a lead of 6-3. Vonderhaar stole third, and on the next pop fly from Viking senior infielder Zachary Thom, he scored another run, ending the top of the fourth with the Vikings up 7-3.

The Spartans tried their best to answer back, with Spartan junior pitcher Christian Bandy hitting a double and Spartan junior first baseman Austin Xu getting on base. A grounder from Spartan junior outfielder Luke Orrock punched both Bandy and Xu into home plate, and the fourth inning ended 7-5 in favor of the Vikings.

According to Schwan, although the Spartans prepared for a pitching matchup with few hits expected, the opposite proved true during the match.

“Today, the hitters took over the game,” Schwan said. “Our strategy going in was to play tight defense and to scratch across a few runs, but we had to kind of abandon that halfway through the game because it turned into a shootout.”

Viking senior pitcher Vincent Braga throws a strike against the Mountain View High School Spartans. (Maxwell Zhang)

The fifth inning would see strong defensive efforts on both sides with only one runner getting on base during the top of the inning and none in the bottom of the inning. However, both offenses soon woke back up in the sixth inning. At the top, Bates hit an out-of-the-park home run, and Vonderhaar scored another run after a deep line drive. In the bottom of the sixth, Xu stole home after a bad pass between a Vikings outfielder and the catcher, ending the inning with Paly still up, 9-6. 

At the top of the seventh and final inning, the Viking’s offense was stopped short by a pop out, an out at first base and a strikeout. In the final part of the inning, Spartan senior second baseman Antonio Peeples hit a single and Caringella followed it up with a home run, setting the score at 9-8. It seemed like a last-minute comeback could happen. 

According to Wenks, in the last moments in the final inning, the team still maintained composure and made an effort to secure the victory.

“I just stayed calm, and I knew we were gonna have a fight,” Wenks said. “I knew we weren’t gonna go down easy. In my last at bat, I just stayed calm, stayed composed, took deep breaths, and waited for a fastball to hit, and I hit it down the line.”

Unfortunately for the Spartans, the Vikings stopped the momentum at the last second with a strikeout and a pop out, sealing the game in favor of the Vikings, 9-8.

According to Viking head coach Peter Fukuhara, the matchup was mainly about who could play the better offense.

“I felt like it was just a dogfight,” Fukuhara said. “You get in some of those games where it’s gonna be blow for blow, and it just matters who strikes last.”

The Vikings are set to play the Wilcox Chargers (7-5) at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Wilcox High School.

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About the Contributors
Maxwell Zhang
Maxwell Zhang, Senior Staff Writer
Maxwell Zhang (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his sophomore year and wishes to pursue management and STEM in college.
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki, Senior Staff Writer
Ketan Altekar-Okazaki (Class of 2024) joined The Voice his junior year and enjoys volunteering in his free time.

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