Baseball: Washington uses 7-run third to secure second straight AAA title over Balboa
By Jeremy Balan
You likely won’t find Washington High School head baseball coach Rob Fung in a more emotional state than where he was on Saturday, standing in the middle of the infield at AT&T Park.
Despite a largely anticlimactic finish to the Eagles’ 10-0 mercy-rule win over Balboa to clinch their second straight Academic Athletic Association championship, Fung stood on the infield grass watching his team run around the outfield with the championship trophy, silently taking it all in
“We never take it for granted and I just love watching the kids enjoy themselves,” Fung said “The biggest thing we said when we got here today was that we have to enjoy the moment. Not many high school kids get to say they played on a major-league diamond. So yeah, when they won, I wanted to sit there and watch them enjoy themselves as high school baseball players.”
After taking an early one-run lead on a RBI single from Gio Solorzano in the second inning, the Eagles (21-9) had their first nine batters in the third inning reach base and first seven score.
Washington starting pitcher Christopher Hau then handled the rest.
Hau, last season’s AAA Pitcher of the Year, allowed just two hits and two walks, and completed an extraordinary league season with the six-inning shutout.
In five appearances and 20 innings in AAA play, the junior right-hander did not allow a single earned run.
“Chris is the reigning pitcher of the year and we knew, going into this game, that we were going to give him the ball,” Fung said. “The way he’s been pitching all season, he was able to dominate again. I can’t say enough about that kid and he’s only a junior. I hope everyone realizes how good he is.”
The Eagles added a run in the fifth inning on a passed ball and sophomore Zachary Dair ended the game with an infield hit in the sixth that scored Washington’s 10th run.
Dair, the No. 9 hitter in the Washington lineup, had two hits and two RBIs, and the bottom three players in the lineup had five of the Eagles’ eight hits. Solorzano, a freshman hitting in the No. 7 spot, also had two hits and a game-high three RBIs.
“If those guys get on two or three times during the game they’ve don their job, but they did fantastic,” Fung said. “The guys at the top, they did what they were supposed to do, but the bottom really picked them up.”
Standout Washington senior Dane Vande Guchte started at shortstop, reached base twice on a hit by pitch and a walk, and went 0-for-2, but wrapped up a decorated AAA career.
A four-year starter, first-team All-AAA selection in his first two years and last season’s Player of the Year, Vande Guchte also won three AAA championships in four years with Washington.
“It wasn’t my best game, but I’m just happy with the win,” Vande Guchte said. “To do this three out of four years is something special. Just to get here and play on this field is special. It’s been a fun ride.”
For the Buccaneers (16-9), which held a high-scoring Lowell lineup scoreless in the semifinals behind a standout defensive effort, everything fell apart in the third inning.
After loading the bases with no outs in the third, sophomore starting pitcher Eli Smoot seemed to be on his way out of the jam when shortstop Gavin Chin appeared to cut down a run at home after Washington’s Christopher Yee hit a ground ball into the drawn-in Balboa infield.
Fung immediately went to the home-plate umpire and contested that Yee’s bat struck Balboa catcher Michael Li’s glove and after a conference, the umpires agreed, and awarded Yee first base and the Eagles a run on the catcher’s interference.
The Eagles then followed with two bloop RBI singles with the infield still drawn in, two walked-in runs and a bunt single. The Bucs also committed five errors in the game and allowed several catchable popups fall.
“I think you just have to blame the baseball gods on those,” said Balboa head coach Tom Pontino. “It was just one of those things that happened. I told them to let it go, go home, enjoy that you came here today and go to sleep, because that’s what I’m going to do.”
Smoot was removed with no outs in the third, but the lone bright spot for the Bucs came in a relief appearance by senior Alex Arnold.
Just two days after throwing 100 pitches in a complete-game shutout of Lowell in the semifinals on Thursday, Arnold pitched three innings and threw 58 more pitches in relief, only allowing an unearned run. Due to rules that only allow high school pitchers to throw 10 innings in a week, Arnold was limited to throw just three innings.
“Alex came in and played fantastic,” Pontino said. “He’s that guy – that hero – who is going to come out and throw, even though he could only go three innings.”
As the San Francisco Section champion, the Eagles will take on Oakland Athletic League champ Oakland Tech in the Transbay Series next week, but several returning Washington players already are looking forward to next season.
“Next year we want to do it again,” Hau said. “It’s another goal.”
W – Gio Solorzano singles, Christopher Hau scores
W – Christopher Yee is awarded first base on a catcher’s interference, Dane Vande Guchte scores
W – Hau singles, Phillips scores
W – Avery Velasco walks, Jordan Wilson scores
W – Solorzano singles, Yee and Hau score
W – Zach Dair walks, Velasco scores
W – Vande Guchte grounds out, Solorzano scores
W – Dair scores on a passed ball
W – Dair singles, Velasco scores