By Jeremy Balan
Marshall High School head baseball coach Gerald Rankin has said it for years.
All he wants for his players is the respect of the rest of the Academic Athletic Association, but the Phoenix had to earn it.
With a 3-2 win over Galileo on Tuesday at Moscone Recreation Center, Marshall became the first team from the B Division to defeat an A Division squad in postseason play since the AAA employed a tiered-division format in 2008.
The win is also Marshall’s first postseason baseball victory in school history.
“We’re on our way,” said Rankin, a graduate of now-defunct Wilson High School in 1970. “I [came to] this program about six years ago and it was in the dumps. I want the AAA to be dominant like when I was in high school, but I also want our side of town to say, ‘Hey, we can still play baseball over here.’”
The divisions are split based on school population, with most of the B Division teams residing in the southeast section of The City, and the statistics have been discouraging, to say the least.
Twenty-run, mercy-rule margins are not uncommon when the two divisions face off and it reached a new low when Washington beat B Division squad Wallenberg 46-0 in just three innings this season. In inter-division games, the B Division had lost a staggering 116 straight games and held an overall record of 1-157.
But that all changed on Tuesday, and it was no wonder why the Phoenix mobbed starting pitcher Aumen Holliday and collectively lifted him up into the air after he struck out the final Galileo batter to end the game.
After struggling with command early and allowing two unearned runs in the first inning, Holliday was dominant. Both of his two hits allowed were on bunts and the standout junior right-hander struck out 12 Galileo batters and walked two in the complete-game victory.
“I don’t have words for it,” Holliday said. “My team did everything they could to back me up. I’m just so happy right now.”
While Holliday was holding off the Lions (12-12) on the mound, the Marshall offense was putting as much pressure as it could on the Galileo defense, especially on the base paths.
The Phoenix (12-10) scored their first run of the game on a squeeze-play bunt from senior Gio Carballo in the second inning and three batters later, No. 9 hitter Andrew Carreon tied the game up with a seeing-eye RBI single up the middle to score junior Drakari Donaldson.
But Donaldson wasn’t done.
After Galileo starting pitcher Jason Tong struck out the first two Marshall batters in the top of the sixth inning, Donaldson hit a lined double into the right-field gap.
On the next pitch, Donaldson broke for third late and with sheer speed got to the base just as Galileo catcher Rafael Vergara’s throw got to the bag. Galileo senior third baseman Eduardo Martinez got his glove on the ball, but as he went down to apply the tag, the ball bounced away and Donaldson scampered home to score the game-winning run.
“I did call [the steal],” Rankin said. “I called it because there’s no more tomorrow. If we go down, we go down fighting, not standing still. After the game I said to myself, “I probably shouldn’t have done that,” but it won the game.”
Martinez’s error wasn’t due to a lack of effort, but that didn’t take away the sting of the loss after the game.
“He’s been with me for four years and sometimes baseball can be cruel,” Galileo head coach Don Papa said of Martinez. “I’m not upset with him and I’m not disappointed. I’m happy for Marshall and [coach] Rankin. It’s a big day for them.”
Up next for the Phoenix is top-seeded Washington in the AAA semifinals on Thursday. Washington won the only regular-season meeting between the two teams 11-1 in five innings.
“It’s going to be tough and Washington can hit the ball, but we’re not going to run from it,” Rankin said. “They didn’t blow us out last time. We beat ourselves. We’re not the same team we were a month and a half ago.”
G – Ken Rivera reaches on an error, Chris Chan and Josh Lu score
M – Gio Carballo sacrifice bunt, Costa Georgopoulos
M – Andrew Carreon singles, Drakari Donaldson scores
M – Donaldson scores on an error