By Jeremy Balan
St. Ignatius gave top-seeded Archbishop Mitty of San Jose all it could handle, but ultimately fell 9-7 to the Monarchs in the West Catholic Athletic League semifinals on Wednesday at Santa Clara University.
The seventh-seeded Wildcats (11-16, 4-10) upset second-seeded St. Francis 10-9 on Tuesday and appeared to be set for another shocker when they took a 5-1 lead in the third inning, after a three-RBI triple from senior third baseman Nick Lynch.
Mitty responded, however, and regained the lead with a four-run fifth inning.
Down 9-5 heading into the seventh, St. Ignatius cut the lead to 9-7 and had the tying run on second base, but a groundout from junior right fielder Lennox Donlon ended the threat and the game.
“It was exciting from beginning to end,” said St. Ignatius Head Coach Matt Stecher. “We made some mistakes, but you have to be perfect when you’re playing a team like Mitty. We knew they weren’t going to go away, but the guys still battled the whole game.”
St. Ignatius was led offensively by a 3-for-3 performance from senior first baseman Matt Lopez. Lopez scored a run and had two RBIs, including an RBI double to open up the scoring in the top of the first inning.
“Matt is a natural ballplayer,” Stecher said. “He hits all over the field and he’s really picked it up in spots when we’ve needed him to.”
The Monarchs had 14 hits and scored in every inning except the first, but Mitty Head Coach Bill Hutton was never able to relax.
“They’ve had a good offense all year,” Hutton said of St. Ignatius. “I was scared to death. Their first four guys in their order are legit guys. They can hit and they did.”
Mitty junior pitcher Tyler Davis allowed five runs early, but shut down the Wildcats in the middle innings to secure the win.
“In a three-game week like this, you sort of have to gut it out,” Hutton said. “[Tyler] had to get up to 80 or 90 pitches, because we don’t want to burn all of our guys. After [the third inning] he refocused and I thought he was really tough. He didn’t want to come out of the game.”
Davis loaded the bases in the seventh and James Roberts came on to collect the save after allowing two inherited runners to score.
“I knew that last inning would be tough,” Hutton said. “It was the fourth time around for their hitters, but Roberts came in and did a good job.”
Mitty, considered to be one of the best teams in the state, will advance to the WCAL final today against Serra.
The loss ends the Wildcats’ playoff run, but considering such a tough opponent, Stecher sees the end of the season as an upswing in the season. Before the loss to Mitty, the Wildcats dropped Valley Christian in the final game of the regular season and continued the surge with the St. Francis upset in the first round.
“We definitely peaked at the right time,” Stecher said. “We struggled a little bit early in the season, but the guys never gave up. To finish the way we finished makes me feel good about the season as a whole, that we could work through the hard stuff and come out as well as we did.”