By Jeremy Balan
PACIFICA – The box score from the St. Ignatius baseball team’s 4-3 non-league loss to Palo Alto on Wednesday at Fairmont Park looks strange enough, but it pales in comparison to the events of the seventh inning.
The Wildcats (10-4-1) outhit the Vikings 8-2, but trailed 4-0 heading into the bottom half of the seventh.
The St. Ignatius rally began with a one-out single from senior Travis McDow, then Charlie Goldensohn was hit by a pitch to put the tying run in the on-deck circle.
No. 9 hitter Matt Debenedetti then lined what appeared to be a routine single into center field. Palo Alto senior center fielder BJ Boyd prepared to play the ball off the first bounce, but the ball sprang off the artificial turf and well over his head, as if it had hit a trampoline.
After the outfielder chased the ball down, Debenedetti pulled into third base for a standup triple and the Wildcats cut the lead to 4-2.
St. Ignatius junior shortstop Nico Giarratano followed with a RBI bloop single to left field and represented the tying run at first base.
Senior right fielder Nick Johnson, who had reached base in his three prior at-bats, came up next and hit a ground ball to Palo Alto second baseman Jack Witte. The senior flipped the ball to shortstop Austin Braff, but Braff was unable to attempt a throw to first for a double play, due to a hard slide by Giarratano that drew contact.
The base umpire called Giarratano out on the force play, but also called Johnson out to end the game, ruling that Giarratano had interfered with Braff during his slide. St. Ignatius center fielder Jack Klein was also called for interference on a similar play in the first inning.
Rule 8-4-2 of the National Federation of State High School Associations rulebook states that a runner is ruled out when he “does not legally slide and causes illegal contact and/or legally alters the actions of a fielder in the immediate act of making a play, or on a force play, does not slide in a direct line between the bases.”
“The [explanations] were not satisfactory,” said St. Ignatius head coach Matthew Stecher. “He said that both slides were illegal and I’m not very happy with the calls, but that’s baseball . . . Both slides were directly into the base. They were both legal slides. I think the umpire blew it.”
The Wildcats were in a position to tie the game late, but squandered multiple scoring opportunities earlier in the game with baserunning mistakes. St. Ignatius also committed three errors in the field and two led to runs scored.
“We made more mistakes than they executed,” Stecher said. “I tip my hat to Palo Alto. They are an excellent team, but I think we shot ourselves in the foot more than a few times and that definitely made a difference in the game.”
The Vikings (14-2-1) stole seven bases, led by two from Boyd, and made a point of putting pressure on the St. Ignatius defense.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a game where we get four runs on two hits,” said Palo Alto head coach Erick Raich. “When you see good arms like that, you have to find a way, other than just relying on your bats – execution, baserunning and things like that . . . It’s easier to get a run doing that sometimes than hitting a ball out of the yard.”
Palo Alto was held scoreless by St. Ignatius junior starting pitcher Matt Krook for most of the game, but Stecher pulled the left-hander after the fifth inning and just 69 pitches. Krook allowed one hit and struck out two, but Stecher pulled him early because he stretched himself in a complete-game win over Mitty on Friday.
“His velocity was good and he was throwing his off-speed [pitches] well, but he had little trouble with control,” Stecher said. “He battles and never gives in.”
The non-league loss doesn’t harm St. Ignatius’ West Catholic Athletic League title hopes and the Wildcats jump right back into league play on Wednesday against rival Sacred Heart Cathedral, where aces Collin Monsour and Chris Miguel will likely face off.
“Our goal is to play for the first spot [in the WCAL],” Stecher said. “Maybe that’s a little ambitious, but we’re setting our goals high . . . The teams ahead of us are phenomenal, but I think we have it in us.”
PA – Austin Braff scores on a throwing error
PA – BJ Boyd reaches on a fielder’s choice, Jack Cleasby scores
PA – John Dickerson reaches on a fielder’s choice, Alec Wong scores
PA – Boyd scores on a throwing error
SI – Matt Debenedetti triples, Travis McDow and Charlie Goldensohn score
SI – Nico Giarratano singles, Debenedetti scores