Paly baseball to host Saratoga in SCVAL championship series opener

Matthew Fogarty, Author

The Palo Alto High School baseball team (15-12, 9-5) and a returning star pitcher will host the Saratoga Falcons (19-8, 8-6) at 4 p.m. today in the opening game of a three-game series to crown the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League champion.

After completing a two-game sweep of Wilcox High School in last week’s semifinal series, Paly head coach Erik Raich decided to give senior Danny Erlich the start at pitcher. Erlich has only appeared in three relief opportunities this season, due to a back injury, while not surrendering a run.  Today will be his first start, but he says he remains confident in his ability to get people out.

“It’s my first start and I know it will be easy to get pumped up and overthrow,” Erlich said. “I have always been pretty good at keeping my composure so I am confident I [will] still have it.”

The Vikings hope their starting pitcher will perform just as well as he did last year.  Erlich finished the 2013 season with a 1.93 earned run average in 61.2 innings of work.

To replicate his success, Erlich claims he will have to keep it simple and stick with the basics and rely on command as a weapon.

“My most important goal for today is simply throwing strikes,” Erlich said.

The Vikings have not lost a game since April 26 and are clicking on all cylinders at the right time for a postseason run.  Their opponent, last-seeded Saratoga, took down the first-seeded Los Gatos Wildcats in an upset victory last week.  However, Paly is not worried about it’s opponent.  The Vikings are worried about continuing to play clean, fundamental baseball and sticking with the game plan that the coaching staff prepares.

“The key to sustaining our progress is going to come down to our teams motto: ‘Throw strikes, hunt fastballs, and take care of the baseball,'” Erlich said.

Regardless of today’s outcome, the Vikings will hit the road for the second game of the series: a 4 p.m. contest at Saratoga High School on Thursday.