Baseball: St. Ignatius earns elusive championship bid with win over Valley Christian

By Jeremy Balan

SAN JOSE – The last time a City team played in a West Catholic Athletic League championship game, Bay Area baseball icon Barry Bonds was on the field as a sophomore.

St. Ignatius, which was the last City team to play in the WCAL championship game when it lost to Bonds’ Serra squad in 1980, ended that daunting streak with a 3-1 win over third-seeded Valley Christian in the league semifinals on Wednesday at San Jose Municipal Stadium.

The Wildcats (19-7-1) got another standout performance from Cal-bound senior starting pitcher Collin Monsour, who allowed just one earned run on five hits and struck out seven on 102 pitches to pick up the complete-game win.

Monsour has a 1.45 earned run average in 10 appearances this season and the win over Valley Christian (21-8) was his fourth complete game.

“He did what he’s been doing all year long,” said St. Ignatius head coach Matthew Stecher. “He’s been fantastic on the mound, doesn’t get flustered in any situation and he’s a competitor. He’s the guy we wanted to have the ball today and he proved why he’s our No. 1 pitcher.”

After navigating through the first four innings almost exclusively using his fastball, the right-hander broke out his curveball and it was more than effective.

His most impactful curve came in the sixth inning, with they tying run on second base and two outs. On a 1-2 pitch, Monsour bent a breaking ball over the plate that froze Valley Christian first baseman Cameron Stewart to end the inning.

“It felt good in the bullpen and felt good on the mound in warmups, but I was just waiting till they showed me they could time my fastball,” Monsour said of his breaking ball. “I mixed it up a little bit after that.”

Monsour allowed the first run of the game in the top of the third inning on an RBI single from Valley Christian shortstop Bryson Brigman, but the Wildcats responded in the next frame when junior center fielder Jack Stinn singled in catcher Charlie Goldensohn to knot the score at 1-1.

Then a familiar contributor put the Wildcats ahead.

Senior right fielder Nick Johnson lined a two-out RBI single to left field in the fourth inning, and upped his batting average to .408 and extended his hitting streak to seven games with a 2-for-4 performance at the plate.

“He’s been on fire and he’s picked us up everywhere we needed it,” Stecher said. “We have some guys hitting now, but he’s been the bright spot of our lineup and has been for a while.”

St. Ignatius added a run in the bottom of the sixth inning on a fielder’s choice goundout by pinch hitter Jason Lock, but left nine runners on base, including seven in scoring position.

“We talked about it after the game yesterday where we hit well, that it needed to carry over,” Stecher said of the 19-8 win over Sacred Heart Cathedral in the first round of the league playoffs on Tuesday. “It didn’t really carry over today, but the further you get in the playoffs the smaller the margin of error. We got away with a little today, but the margin of error tomorrow is zero.”

The second-seeded Wildcats will take on fourth seed Serra – which knocked off top seed St. Francis 4-1 in the other semifinal on Wednesday night – in the league championship game at Santa Clara University on Thursday and will hope to get some offensive help from Jack Klein.

Klein, who was the Wildcats’ No. 2 starting pitcher and regular starting center fielder until he was sidelined by a wrist injury against Palo Alto in early April, has made two consecutive starts as the team’s designated hitter.

The junior went 1-for-3 against Valley Christian, but is 1-for-6 since returning from the injury.

“He’s still getting his timing down, because he hasn’t seen live pitching in four weeks,” Stecher said. “He’s been working hard through his injury, he never takes a day off and we’re excited to have him back.”

Stecher did not set his starter for Thursday in stone after the game, but said he was leaning toward hard-throwing junior left-hander Matt Krook.

At the plate, Krook leads the Wildcats in hits (31) and batting average (.409), and has a 2.69 ERA on the mound this season, but has struggled to get deep in games. In his last start on Friday against Mitty, however, he threw a season-high six innings and allowed just a single earned run.

“He’s been resting all week and he had a good outing on Friday,” Stecher said. “He gives us our best shot tomorrow.”

St. Ignatius also may be without starting second baseman Matt DeBenedetti on Thursday. The senior twisted his ankle after stretching out to try to beat a groundout in the fourth inning and was removed from the game.

Scoring Summary

Third Inning
VC – Bryson Brigman singles, Keenan Brigman scores1
SI – Jack Stinn singles, Charlie Goldensohn scores

Fourth Inning
SI – Nick Johnson singles, Nick Formanek scores

Sixth Inning
SI – Jason Lock reaches on a fielder’s choice, Christian Santos scores

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10 Comments

  1. WCAL Alum says:

    Barry Bonds hit a towering home run to deep center to clinch that championship game played at College of San Mateo.

    Good luck to the Cats tonight.

    Serra on an incredible run for last part of season. Serra is coached by SHC grad Craig Giannino. Craig was put under a lot of pressure by unforgiven Serra alums when one of their own was bypassed for coaching position.

    Regardless who wins, it will be a feel-good ending for some. Pulling for the Cats to bring home the first on-field title for a San Francisco WCAL team since Sacred Heart beat St. Francis (at St. Francis) in 1978.

    • CJC says:

      In the 1980 championship game, wich Serra won 7-5, Bond’s homerun off Mickey O’Neil came in the 3rd after SI took a 3-0 lead in the top of the inning on a walk, triple and two singles. Serra held a 4-3 lead until the 5th when SI tied the game on a walk, single, and a double steal. In the bottom of the fifth, Serra scored three runs with two outs on a double, and four singles. SI added one more run in the top of the 7th but could not complete the comeback. As Serra’s leadoff hitter, Bonds went 1 for 4 and Steve Schumacher went 2 for 3. For SI, Nick LaRocca was 2 for 2 with 3 runs scored and an rbi and Steve Scolini was 3 for 3 with an rbi. Marty Pletkin went the distance for Serra and Mark Kirkland was saddled with the loss for SI. In the CCS, SI lost to Saratoga 3-2 in a quarterfinal and Serra lost to Terra Nova 5-3.

  2. SI Sports Radio says:

    SI Sports Radio will broadcast today’s WCAL championship baseball game live from Santa Clara University at 550pm.

    Listen live with your computer, smart phone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Click on the link:
    http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/siprep.portal# or type http://www.siprep.org/sportsradio into your browser.

  3. Ari Gold says:

    You know who I’m going for…. Go Padres!!!! Channeling the ghosts of Barry Bonds, Gregg Jefferies, Chuck Lofgren, and Dan Serafini!!!!

    • JJ says:

      How can you channel the ghosts when all those players you mentioned are alive? Except Bonds, no one on that list did anything in the majors. Jeffries was a bust. Lofgren might be in the minors somewhere. In a couple years, the Giants will draft Monsour, then we’ll have a rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Monsour, and Zito by the year 2015.

      • mustang06 says:

        According to wikipedia, Jefferies played in the majors for 14 years and hit .289 with 126 homers. That’s pretty good.

        • JJ says:

          Yea, but Jefferies was hyped up like Bryce Harper is right now. A can’t miss Hall of Famer.

          • WCAL Alum says:

            Gregg Jefferies was brash/no prisoner type ballplayer and got everything out of his 5’9” frame. I remember him in a summer game for Millbrae Lions storming off field when he got out. He expected a lot of himself. Had an impressive regimand in training for baseball. Unique for the time.

            Turned a lot of heads after excepting Minor League Player of Year award and outright said, I am going to eclipse Peter Rose’s all time hitting total.

            Threw right into the deep end with that good Mets team of late 80′s. His first game with Met’s (v. Giants) he was called up and when he got out of taxi and went to players entrance, he was held back at security, as they didnt believe somebody so young and relatively small was actually a real ballplayer.

            Stayed above water for 14 years.

          • IC Stars says:

            I can’t believe Jeffries was nominated for the Hall of Fame. The HOF is for OUTSTANDING players, not “pretty good” players (who make errors and let the Dodgers win playoff games). I think Harper is much better and will live up to his hype.

            • JJ says:

              I’m not sure if Harper will live up to his hype. Think about all the athletes that were hyped up so much, and they came out to be “pretty decent”, average, or bad players: Michelle Wie, Freddy Adu, Darius Miles, Reggie Bush, etc….The only players in recent memory that lived up to the hype so far are Lebron James, Kobe, Ichiro and maybe Ken Griffey, Jr, but he was kinda average in the 2nd half of his career.

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