The Paly Voice

Baseball wins first ever CCS championship in thrilling fashion

Grant Raffel, Author

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The Vikings celebrate after junior Austin Braff drove in the game-winning run to win the CCS Division I baseball championship game.  It is Paly’s first CCS baseball title.

– Grant Raffel

The Palo Alto High School baseball team won its first ever Division I Central Coast Section championship late Saturday night, 5-4, over San Benito in the bottom of the seventh inning at the San Jose Municipal Stadium.

The Vikings (28-9, 15-5) endured a one hour and 56 minute rain delay and won on a walk off single by junior shortstop Austin Braff that brought junior B.J. Boyd across the plate.

“I was trying to just get the ball in play knowing that B.J. was on, because he has really good speed,” Braff said. “I wasn’t too nervous because my brother [T.J. Braff] was right behind me and whatever happened he would probably get the job done, too.”

Second-year head coach Erick Raich was proud of his team’s performance after losing last year in the championship game.

“It’s a game that will stick with me for the rest of my life for sure, and I hope it will stick with these guys for the rest of their lives,” Raich said.  “All the credit in the world goes out to these young men. I’m pretty speechless.”

Junior Ben Sneider started the game for Paly, but was pulled after giving up a two-run homer in the fourth inning to San Benito’s sophomore catcher Jacob Tonascia. Sneider thinks the rain delay may have helped him focus on his pitching rather than the significance of the game.

“I actually think the rain delay helped me,” Sneider said. “It was pretty distracting. I wasn’t really focused on the fact that it was a championship game. That all went out the door, and I just wanted to go out there and pitch.”

Senior Drake Swezey, who had been playing third base, relieved Sneider and held the Haybalers to just two more runs over the remaining 3 2/3 innings.

“I just knew that the only way we had a shot at this game was if I threw strikes and shut them down,” Swezey said. “I knew my offense would supply the runs as long as I threw strikes and gave up as few runs as possible.”

Swezey was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning and came out for a pinch runner, but returned to pitch in the top of the seventh.

“I got hit and the adrenaline kicked in and got me pretty pumped up,” Swezey said.  “Personally, I’m one of those guys who gets better in the later innings once I find my pitches.”

Although the Division II and III championship games were played on the same field earlier in the day, a downpour delayed the start of the game over concern that the basepaths were unplayable.  The players were introduced when the rain stopped at about 7:45 p.m., but the teams waited around for the next hour before the grounds crew dumped dry dirt on the infield.  The game, originally scheduled for 7 p.m., started at 8:56 p.m.

The game was marked by errors due to the wet field, as each team helped the other by making defensive mistakes.

After losing in the Division II championship game last year, the Vikings moved up a division and got the job done this year.  Even with the loss of key players like Joc Pederson, Paly improved on its performance to rack up its fourth CCS championship across all sports this year along with two state titles.

“The letterman jacket is going to look good,” said Boyd, who played on the state champion football team in the fall.

 

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