De La Salle 3, California 2
The Spartans starter, Andrew Buckley, tossed 113 pitches, none more important than his work in the seventh and final inning.
Buckley found himself in a jam, holding a one-run lead in the final inning after walking the leadoff man Blake Guardino. Guardino moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then drew every Cal fan to their feet when he stole third.
Suddenly, the game-tying run stood only 90 feet from home with only one out.
“At the end of the sixth, right after I came out, I told the coach ‘I’m finishing this game’,” said Buckley. “I was worried I might get pulled after I walked the leadoff man in the seventh, but I got the strikeout and the fly out to finish it off.”
Buckley’s high heat proved to be overpowering for the Grizzlies as he struck out 10 batters and only allowed two earned runs.
Hunter Mercado-Hood led off the game for De La Salle (20-7) with a triple to the left field corner and quickly scored on a sacrifice fly.
However, the Spartans trailed 2-1 in the second, after an infield single by Cal’s Tyler Johnson plated Kevin Fairley, who was running all the way from second. Guardino followed with a triple, scoring Johnson.
“Cal’s team and their pitching staff were gutsy,” said De La Salle coach David Jeans. “Cody Ball was at the bottom of the zone and mixing up his fastball and breaking ball.”
In the fourth DLS turned the tables, starting with one out and runners on second and third. Austin Lonestar tied the game with a single through the Grizzlies drawn-in infield and one batter later Steven Herting’s safety squeeze gave the Spartans the 3-2 lead.
“This is something that we have been continuing since last year,” said Jeans. “Working on the little things. The safety squeeze was huge.”
Cal (15-13) was bolstered by a strong start by Ball, who worked four strong innings before being relieved by Adam Kimmel. Kimmel shut down the Spartan offensive attack and held them scoreless for the final three innings.
The win was extra sweet for DLS after losing last year’s section championship 1-0 to James Logan High, where the only run was scored on a Spartans’ double error.
After that game, De La Salle’s Logan West (currently pitching for USF) said it was a team loss. Following the NCS victory Saturday night, on a cold summer eve, Buckley said it was a team win and he was excited to bounce back after last season’s disappointing finish.
The Spartan’s sports programs completed a winter sweep of section titles and continue to dominate the Bay Area high school sports realm.