Second-seeded St. Francis and No. 3 Mitty had to wait a long time to play their Central Coast Section Division II baseball semifinal on Wednesday evening. When the two teams locked horns 1 hour, 45 minutes after the scheduled 7 p.m. start time at San Jose Municipal Stadium, folks in attendance were treated a dandy.
The Lancers prevailed 2-0 over the Monarchs, who had the tying runs aboard when the precarious final out was recorded — an ever-so-close force play at second.
St. Francis (23-8) faces the No. 1 seed — Soledad (24-5) — at Municipal Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m. with the section title at stake. Soledad went 11 innings to edge No. 12 Christopher 6-5 in the opener, the reason for the delayed start for the nightcap.
St. Francis coach Matt Maguire has led his alma mater to a section title game in his first season at the helm.
“I’m proud of these guys,” said Maguire, class of 1998. “It’s pretty cool. They bought in. They accepted me as the new guy. I didn’t change much. It’s baseball.”
The contest quickly shaped up as a pitchers’ duel between sophomore Joey Schott of St. Francis and Mitty’s Josh Seward — the West Catholic Athletic League pitcher of year. Seward, featuring a filthy change-up, went five innings, absorbing a tough defeat.
Schott, who relies on a three-pitch repertoire of fastball, slider and change-up, allowed four hits. Schott was relieved in the top of the seventh after walking leadoff hitter Joe Yorke.
“You can’t say enough about Schott,” Maguire said.
“It was a great fan base,” Schott said. “A lot of people came out here. It was a close game.”
Replacing Schott was another sophomore, lefty Gianluca Shinn, who gave up a single to Connor Leaverton before fanning two pinch-hitters, then inducing a 5-4 ground out to earn the save.
Having himself a night was senior Cole Sperling, who was sterling on the bases and in the field. Sperling accounted for the game’s both runs, scoring all the way from first in the fourth inning to break a deadlock on a double by Cooper Foard, who came through on a 3-2 count with two out.
Sperling walked a second time in the bottom of the sixth, scoring on a deep drive to right-center off the bat of Justin Torres, who was credited with a RBI triple to make it 2-0.
Earlier in the game, Sperling singled, then stole second in the second inning, but Seward left two runners stranded to get out of it.
Sperling added a shoestring catch to rob Nick Yorke, the WCAL Player of the Year, of a hit leading off the top of the sixth.
“We knew Mitty was going to be a tough game,” Sperling said. “We came out strong and did what we needed to do. We made all the plays on the field we needed to make.”
Baylor-bound Ricky Martinez had two singles for the Lancers, while Mitty had a double by Jonah Advincula and a pair of singles by Leaverton.
Nick Yorke, a sophomore, teamed with second baseman Miguel Cebedo to turn a dazzling 4-6-3 double play in the fourth inning.
The Monarchs and Lancers split blowouts in the WCAL regular season, but did not meet in the WCAL tournament. Maguire said the long wait for first pitch merely had to be dealt with.
“It’s Murphy’s Law, right?” Maguire said. “It was a great game before us. Our guys handled it well.”