By Jeremy Balan
SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — The Lowell High School baseball team has proven it can pitch with San Francisco’s West Catholic Athletic League teams this season, but it’s not quite up to the task at the plate.
After a 1-0 loss to Riordan on Friday, the Cardinals were shut out again by Sacred Heart Cathedral in a 2-0 loss in the Dick Murray tournament championship game Tuesday at Westborough Park.
Without using top pitcher and reigning City Player of the Year Chris Miguel, three Irish pitchers combined for the shutout.
Junior starter Mike Wallace pitched five innings — striking out six while allowing just two hits — to get the win, senior Jack Harrington pitched an inning of relief, and sophomore Tyler Martinez came on in the seventh to pick up the save.
“Wallace is not as good as Chris, but he’s on his way,” said Sacred Heart head coach Brian Morgan. “They were getting some good rips near the end of the game and we thought it was time for Martinez to see what he could do. He got his feet wet today and hopefully that pays dividends down the line. He’s certainly a talented young man.”
Lowell junior starter Elijah Saunders pitched a solid game as well, allowing just two runs on five hits in five innings.
He worked himself into trouble in the second inning after allowing an RBI single to Sacred Heart senior first baseman Manny Serrano, but also worked himself out of trouble.
Saunders walked Gino Franco in the next at-bat to load the bases with one out, then struck out the next two Sacred Heart batters to get out of the jam.
“We played two WCAL teams and they got three runs off of us, so we’re pretty proud of our pitching staff,” said Lowell head coach John Donohue. “We’re starting to serve notice that we’re going to be tough to beat.”
Serrano’s single would prove to be enough, but the Irish (6-0) tacked on an insurance run with a RBI single from senior catcher Joe Cibotti in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Sacred Heart had just five hits and stranded seven baserunners, but Morgan was not overly concerned with the lack of offense early in the season.
“It tends to be this way,” Morgan said. “Pitchers are ahead of hitters this time of year, but if we’re hitting the same three weeks from now, it’s a concern.”
Two of Lowell’s (4-2) three hits came from senior center fielder Nick Tam, who also pitched a shutout sixth inning in relief of Saunders. Tam led off the game with a single, but Wallace retired the next eight Lowell batters before Tam singled again in the fourth.
“This is the best team I think we’ve played, including Saratoga,” Morgan said. “They can swing the bat. They didn’t hit the ball great today, because we pitched well, played good defense and threw out a runner stealing. That’s the name of the game, especially early in the year.”
Miguel, who also led the Irish in RBIs, home runs and extra-base hits last season, didn’t have a great day at the plate (0-for-1 with two walks, while being pitched around at times), but played stellar defense at third base, including a sparkling play in the top of the seventh inning.
Lowell right fielder Andy Glickfeld hit a ground ball that appeared to be destined for the hole, but Miguel dove to his left to make the stop and just beat Glickfeld to the bag with a low throw, aided by a deft pick by Serrano at first base.
“We made three or four plays that in high school baseball could be easily missed or thrown away,” Morgan said. “That’s the difference in the game. If we gave them an opening, all the sudden it’s a different ballgame.”
The Irish remain undefeated, but have been in a similar situation the past two years, where they entered WCAL play undefeated, only to go 4-10 in the league in both seasons.
“The problem in the league is, if you play bad, you lose by 15 and sometimes you can play good and lose by four,” Morgan said. “In the end it’s still a loss. It’s that way in basketball, soccer, football — you name it. Everybody knows the deal, but these guys have a little confidence and I’m looking forward to league.”
SH – Manny Serrano singles, Jack Harrington scores
SH – Joe Cibotti singles, Tevin Goodwin scores