By Jeremy Balan
SAN JOSE — The Leland High School baseball team upset top-seeded Willow Glen in the quarterfinal round of the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs, but may have run into the division’s best team, seeding notwithstanding, in the semifinals on Thursday at Municipal Stadium.
Fifth-seeded St. Ignatius scored six runs in the first inning, three runs in the second and closed the game out in the bottom of the fifth on a walkoff RBI double from Nick Johnson that sealed a 10-0 mercy-rule win over the eighth-seeded Chargers.
The final double capped a 4-for-4 performance at the plate for the left-handed-swinging right fielder. He also scored two runs and had two doubles.
“He’s a quiet guy, but what he does on the field is amazing,” said St. Ignatius head coach Matt Stecher. “It really is a joy to watch him play. He’s had great success at the plate, but he’s also playing great for us in right field.”
The Wildcats (22-8-1) collected 12 total hits, including four straight in the first inning that allowed SI to score three runs before Leland recorded an out. Center fielder Jack Klein, second baseman Matt DeBenedetti and first baseman Matt Krook also had two RBIs apiece.
“Everything came together and it rolled through the whole lineup,” Johnson said. “We wanted to show what we had. We were ranked as the five seed in this tournament and we thought we were better.”
With a sizable early cushion, Cal-bound senior starting pitcher Collin Monsour threw four shutout innings and allowed just two hits, while striking out three, but maybe most importantly, only threw 54 pitches.
Due to high school rules that limit pitchers to throw 10 innings in a week, Monsour will now be available to throw six innings in the championship game on Saturday.
“That was the idea,” Stecher said when asked if he was saving Monsour for an appearance on Saturday. “We tried to keep his pitch count low, but we also wanted him to set the tone for the game. He definitely did that and now we’re hoping that with a day of rest, he can do some relief work for us on Saturday.”
The hard-throwing right-hander got a lift from three sparkling defensive plays by the SI infield in his final inning, but rolled through the first three frames, including a seven-pitch second. Monsour got the first two batters of the second out on ground balls then struck out the final batter of the inning on three pitches, the last a fastball that painted the outside corner of the plate.
Monsour’s replacement, left-hander Jack Schoenberger, didn’t disappoint either. In his lone inning of work, the junior struck out the side on just 13 pitches.
“Collin set the tone and Jack came in and did a phenomenal job,” Stecher said. “It was a risk, but after that showing, it wasn’t really a risk. It even turned a little hostile in the stands and that didn’t faze him at all.”
The Wildcats will return to San Jose on Saturday to face second-seeded Aptos in the CCS championship game and the SI coaches scouted the Mariners in their 7-5 semifinal win over Mt. Pleasant earlier in the day. Aptos went undefeated in Santa Cruz Coast League play this season and holds a 20-8 record.
“I don’t know that we proved anything to them, but we definitely proved something to ourselves – that we deserve to be here,” Stecher said. “We realize that work is ahead of us and that we have a goal to reach. That goal is hopefully a win on Saturday.”
SI – Matt Krook singles, Nico Giarratano scores
SI – Jack Klein doubles, Charlie Goldensohn and Nick Johnson score
SI – Kyle Tillinghast reaches on an error, Krook scores
SI – Matt DeBenedetti singles, Klein scores
SI – Giarratano reaches on an error, Tillinghast scores
SI – Krook singles, Johnson scores
SI – DeBenedetti reaches on a fielder’s choice, Jack Klein scores. Travis McDow scores on an error.
SI – Johnson doubles, Dylan Foster scores