By Jeremy Balan
SAN BRUNO — Lick-Wilmerding High School baseball may have won the last four league titles, but after a 2-1 win over the Tigers on Friday at Skyline College, Stuart Hall sits alone atop the Bay Counties League West.
Both teams came into the week undefeated in league play, but Stuart Hall (11-4, 6-0) served Lick (10-9, 4-2) its first league loss with a 10-6 win on Tuesday and completed the sweep on Friday.
“This is huge for the kids, and it was a very emotional game for them,” said Stuart Hall head coach Eddie Russell. “To come out here and win this game is going to give them a tremendous amount of confidence to finish the season.”
Sophomore left-hander Ben Carrasco had another stellar performance on the mound, allowing just three hits while striking out eight to collect the complete-game victory, but his final inning was his most nerve-wracking.
Clinging to a one-run lead, Carrasco allowed a leadoff double to Lick-Wilmerding first baseman Danny Baldocchi, but retired the next three batters in order, including a crucial strikeout with one out and Baldocchi at third base.
“There’s no one I’d rather have out there than Ben,” Russell said. “He goes out and competes better than any kid I’ve had. If I went out there and tried to take him out, I would have had to pry the ball out of his hands with pliers.”
Carrasco didn’t allow a hit through the first four innings, but ran into trouble in the fifth. Lick center fielder Lucas Howard broke up his no-hit bid with a one-out single, then stole second, allowing third baseman Evan Korn to break the scoreless tie with an RBI single.
But the Knights responded immediately with a two-out rally in top of the sixth. After Lick starting pitcher Nick Corson retired the first two batters, TJ Najera reached on an error and Carrasco followed with a single to put runners on first and third.
Then, after a stolen base by Carrasco, junior first baseman Lucas Long put the Knights up for good with a clutch two-RBI single.
“You gotta believe in the team,” Carrasco said. “I thought we would get [the runs] and we did. After that, I could really go after people [on the mound], and once we got the lead, I wasn’t going to give it up.”
The two runs, both unearned, were the only blemishes on Corson’s day. The junior right-hander struck out just two in 6 1/3 innings of work, but only allowed four baserunnners until the sixth inning, retiring nine consecutive batters in one stretch.
“He pitched extremely well and was in the strike zone the whole day,” said Lick head coach Manny Granillo. “He was very efficient. I don’t think he had more than 80 pitches, and the couple of errors caused him to throw more pitches.”
The Tigers had limited opportunities against Carrasco throughout, but got the tying run to third in each of the final two innings and couldn’t cash in.
“It was a tough loss, but all league losses are tough,” Granillo said. “We started out well in the seventh inning and I thought we’d at least tie the game, but that’s just part of baseball.”
Even with the loss, Granillo and the Tigers take comfort in the fact that they could have a chance for redemption once the playoffs begin.
“Four championships in a row puts a big target on us. We know that and we’re OK with it,” Granillo said. “We still have a shot and haven’t given up yet. We’ll be back in the playoffs and we’ll go out and play hard.”
LW – Evan Korn singles, Lucas Howard scores
SH – Lucas Long singles, TJ Najera and Ben Carrasco score