By Jeremy Balan
Galileo junior shortstop Erik Wilson had three singles in the AAA/CIF-San Francisco Section final against Washington on Thursday, but his final hit ended a 32-year championship drought for the Lions.
With the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning, Wilson lined a walk-off single to left field over a drawn in Washington infield to break a 4-4 tie.
“I just wanted a base hit or put the ball in play. That’s what I was thinking,” Wilson said. “The feeling is indescribable. It’s a once in a lifetime feeling.”
Wilson went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and made two impressive plays defensively.
“I just told Erik to calm down and meet the ball, you don’t have to swing too hard, all you have to do is make contact,” Galileo Head Coach Don Papa said of Wilson’s last at bat.
Galileo (15-12, 11-4) also got another solid performance from senior starting pitcher Dylan Nelson, who also went 3-for-4., with two doubles and a triple. Nelson hit a double after a leadoff single by freshman Ken Rivera to bring the winning run to third in the seventh.
Washington (21-11, 11-5) then elected to intentionally walk junior first baseman Dustin Andrick to load the bases for Wilson.
Nelson was also a force on the mound, allowing two earned runs with 11 strikeouts on 130 pitches to collect the complete-game win.
“My arm’s is going to be sore for a whole week now,” Nelson said. “I wasn’t coming out of this game. I was going to throw 300 pitches if I needed to.”
Papa knew, with the strain on Nelson’s arm, scoring in the seventh was crucial.
“It was now or never. If we didn’t get it there, it would have been tough,” Papa said. “Pretty much that inning was it. [Nelson] wanted to keep pitching and he said ‘screw it, let’s lay it all out.’ It was all or nothing that inning.”
The title is Galileo’s first since 1978 and Papa’s first in his 18 seasons coaching baseball at the school.
“It’s a good thing for the school and it’s good for the kids, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Papa said. “A month ago who would have thought this would happen? I didn’t come in with high expectations. This is really a miracle, for sure. Without a couple guys we wouldn’t even be there.”
While the Galileo players and coaches celebrated on the field, the mood in the Washington dugout was unquestionably disappointed.
“To be honest, I’m not happy about the loss,” said Washington coach Rob Fung. “But we put ourselves in that predicament.”
Washington stranded six runners in scoring position and Nelson retired the final nine Eagles’ batters in order.
“We did not put the ball in play with two strikes,” Fung said. “I thought we could have done a better job and when we had opportunities to score, we didn’t. That particular play may have ended the game, but it didn’t cost us the game. We cost ourselves the game earlier in the ballgame.”
After Galileo jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, Washington battled back to take a 3-2 lead in the third. The Lions responded with two runs in the bottom half of the inning, keyed by an RBI single from Wilson, to retake the lead.
Washington then tied the game up again in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from senior center fielder Walter James, to set up Wilson’s late-inning heroics.
Even with the loss, Fung was impressed with the way his players finished the season.
Washington was in danger of missing the playoffs entirely, but routed Galileo 27-2 in the final game of the season to force a play-in game against Balboa. After edging Balboa, the Eagles easily dispatched Wallenberg in the first round and shocked top-seeded Lowell in the semifinals.
“We tell these guys that the whole baseball season is a roller coaster and a marathon,” Fung said. “You always want to finish strong at the end. We took a little skid, but they have nothing to be [ashamed] of, the way they came back. I’m sure people thought we weren’t going to make it. We just couldn’t get it done at the very end.”
With the win, Galileo advances to the Transbay championship against the Oakland Athletic League champion Oakland Tech. The teams will meet in the first game of the best-of-three series on Wednesday at San Francisco State University.
G – Dustin Andrick infield single to second, Dylan Nelson scores
G – Erik Wilson groundout to shortstop, John Yu scores
W – Alex Kawano reaches on error, Paul Duchene scores
W – Walter James reaches on fielder’s choice, Dane Vande Gutche scores
W – James scores on throwing error
G – William Kay scores on throwing error
G – Wilson infield single to third, Nelson scores
W – James single to center, Alex Kozakiewicz scores
G – Wilson single to left, Jeffrey Hua scores