By Jeremy Balan
OAKLAND — For four innings, International starting pitcher Jordan Malik walked the tightrope against a dangerous Head-Royce lineup — one run, four hits and seven stranded baserunnners.
But the danger of walking that right rope is that you can fall off at any time, and all it took was one inning to turn a nerve-wracking tie into a rout.
The Jayhawks rallied for six runs with two outs in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie, and cruised to a 7-1 win in the North Coast Section Division V semifinals on Wednesday at Head-Royce.
“It was that one inning, and we’ve been living on the edge for a long time,” said International head coach Anthony Thomas. “It came down to one inning and the wheels kinda fell off for us finally, but I have to be proud of my kids for what we accomplished. We represented our league and San Francisco pretty well.”
Malik limited Head-Royce (17-8) to one run through the first four innings on a bevy of off-speed pitches, but the Jayhawks hit the ball hard on multiple occasions, and Malik was bailed out by a solid Jaguars’ defense and a bit of luck, as many line drives were right at International fielders.
“Kids like that frustrate you,” said Head-Royce head coach Mike Talps. “You don’t see guys like this very often and you’re so used to gearing up to different kinds of guys.”
After hitting the ball hard consistently throughout the first four innings, the Jayhawks broke through on a bloop single down the right field line from sophomore Michael Greenfield that put them up 2-1.
Then the flood gates opened and the Jayhawks tacked on extra runs on a two-RBI double from freshman Sami Tugan and a bases-loaded triple by senior Danny Maccarone.
“In baseball, you can hit 15 line drives and you hit a 40-foot dinker and that’s what does it for you,” Talps said. “That’s why you’ve got to keep digging against a kid like that. Just keep taking good swings and having good at-bats and hopefully you can find a hole.”
International (22-4) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on a RBI single from junior Jacob Bogdanov, and Head-Royce starter Steven Farinaro only allowed the single run on two hits in three innings of work, but it was his replacement that changed the whole complexion of the game.
Standout Stanford-bound left-hander Spenser Linney took the mound in the fourth, and was dominant the rest of the way, striking out eight of the 13 batters he faced in the final four innings to collect the win.
“When we tied it up, we thought, ‘Let’s go [with Spenser] now,'” Talps said. “We thought about letting [Farinaro] go one more inning, but with [International senior Clay] Bloszies leading off, we thought we could be looking back on that decision for a lot of years [with regret].”
Linney didn’t allow a ball out of the infield in his four innings and International’s only hit off him came on an infield hit from Bloszies in the seventh that deflected off Linney on the mound.
“Believe it or not, we felt we had them worried if they had to bring Spenser in,” Thomas said. “Everyone wants to face the best and we want to give our kids the best opportunity to see if they can measure up. Our kids got to see a very good pitcher and compete, and that’s what we’ve been talking about all year.”
The Jaguars’ season ended with the loss, while the second-seeded Jayhawks will advance to face an upstart Redwood Christian team in the championship game on Saturday, but Thomas did not shortchange what was one of the best baseball seasons in school history.
The loss also marks the end of the road for Thomas at the school as coach and in many respects as athletic director, as he will be moving on to take over the duties as the athletic director at Branson School of Ross next season.
“We were really on a roll and people are going to remember it,” Thomas said. “I think we accomplished a lot and overcame a lot. This is a game and we became very close as a family. That’s going to be the hardest part to say good bye to, but the kids that play for me know that I’m always around and they have my support and I’m only a phone call away.”
I – Jacob Bogdanov singles, Clay Bloszies scores
HR – Tim Ellis Caleo singles, Spenser Linney scores
HR – Michael Greenfield singles, Linney scores
HR – Sami Tugan doubles, Zack Isaacs and Greenfield score
HR – Danny Maccarone triples, Tugan, Matt Forster and Tynan Challenor score
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