The Score: Sacred Heart Prep 6, Menlo 4.
The Star: Sacred Heart Prep pitcher Jack Larson outdueled Menlo’s dynamic lineup, limiting the visitors to one big inning in his complete-game effort. The junior right-hander changed speeds effectively and kept the Knights off balance despite allowing 10 hits. The result? SHP surprised its rival by claiming an important early game in the West Bay Athletic League season on Wednesday afternoon.
The Turning Point: Sacred Heart Prep’s three-run rally with two outs in the bottom of the third cut Menlo’s lead to 4-3. Though the Gators didn’t take the lead with that outburst against right-hander Jake Bruml (5-2), they gained the confidence they could hit Menlo’s stout pitching. Cal Baloff dropped in a two-RBI single to right and Tomas O’Donnell followed with a run-scoring single. Then Larson (3-2) threw a scoreless top of the fourth as the momentum continued to shift towards SHP. Finally, the Gators went ahead 5-4 later that inning -- scoring on a bases-loaded throwing error on a fielder’s choice and then a Matt Martella sacrifice fly.
The Quote: “I think it’s just the intense rivalry. We’ve swept them in every other sport -- just trying to keep it going. … That’s a huge confidence booster. Beating Menlo, third game in league, I think it’s going to be a nice battle for the league title.” – SHP senior shortstop Zack Buono, on what sparked what has been a mediocre Gator team to a head-turning win over powerhouse Menlo.
What’s Next? Both teams have WBAL games on Friday at 4 p.m. Menlo (12-2, 2-1 WBAL) looks to get back on track when it hosts Harker. Meanwhile, SHP (8-8, 3-0) takes aim at a winning record for the first time this season when it visits The King’s Academy.
The Bottom Line: If Wednesday’s result is any indication, the WBAL could end up being more competitive than anyone would have thought. Menlo, which returned nearly all its players from last year’s Central Coast Section Division III champion, looked formidable in rampaging to a 12-1 record entering Wednesday. Meanwhile, SHP had many struggles in the early season – and came in having allowed at least seven runs in each of its last three games. But the Gators answered the call in the first of the teams’ two league meetings. SHP’s batters overcame a 4-0 deficit against talented pitchers Bruml and Freddy Avis, and Larson (3-2) silenced Menlo’s lineup over the final four innings.
Notes: SHP’s two late arrivals from the basketball team did the bulk of the damage at the plate. Baloff, the No. 5 hitter, keyed the third-inning rally. And O’Donnell (2-for-3, two RBIs) opened the bottom of the fifth by hitting the first pitch he saw from Avis for a home run to right. That opposite-field shot, his second long ball in his last two games, was the first homer allowed by Menlo this season. … After a slow start at the plate, Avis has been coming on strong. The junior went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI, his third straight multi-hit game, each with a double. … Meanwhile, Bruml, who entered with a .571 average, was held hitless for just the second time in 14 games. … Menlo is No. 2 this week in . SHP is unranked. ... The teams both went 9-1 to share the WBAL crown last year, with each winning on its home field. Their second 2011 meeting will be at Menlo on May 11.
Sacred Heart Prep 6, Menlo School 4
M – 103 000 0 – 4 10 1
S – 003 210 x – 6 7 0
WP: Larson (3-2). LP: Bruml (5-2).
HR: O’Donnell (SHP). 2B: Avis, Diekroeger (M). 3 hits: Avis (M). 2 hits: Wickers (M); O’Donnell (SHP). 2 RBI: Benton (M); Baloff, O’Donnell (SHP).
Records: Menlo School 12-2, 2-1 WBAL. Sacred Heart Prep 8-8, 3-0.