By Bonta Hill
SAN JOSE – With the St. Ignatius baseball team facing a 3-1 deficit in the bottom of the fifth inning of the Central Coast Section Division II championship game, Aptos was threatening to put the game away with the bases loaded with one out.
St. Ignatius head coach Matt Stetcher called on his ace, Cal-bound pitcher Collin Monsour, to get the Wildcats out of the jam.
Monsour not only got St. Ignatius out of the inning with back-to-back strikeouts, but also swung the momentum of the game that ended with a 5-3 SI victory on Saturday at Municipal Stadium.
The Wildcats (20-8-1) rallied for four runs in the top of the sixth inning and secured their first CCS baseball title in school history.
“It’s hard to describe and it’s going to take some time to process,” Stetcher said. “We made some adjustments late and our pitchers, who have been tremendous all year, [were] good again for us today. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster.”
The roller coaster ride started early for St. Ignatius.
After starting pitcher Connor Cucalon threw a scoreless first inning, the Mariners were able to capitalize on SI fielding errors.
The second-seeded Mariners (17-9) struck for two runs in the second inning, with the first coming a fielding error, and the second on a bloop RBI single from Aptos right fielder John Evans.
“At [that] point [did] we know we still were in the battle? Absolutely, but scoring those runs and taking the lead set the tone for a good day,” said Aptos head coach Dave Heinevetter.
Aptos starting pitcher Jared Koenig largely kept St. Ignatius off-balance and gave up a run in the first inning, but breezed through the next four frames, retiring 14 of the next 16 SI batters.
Koenig, who pitched 6 1/3 innings, only allowed a single hit through five.
“[He] pitched really well for them,” said St. Ignatius right fielder Nick Johnson. “He was hitting his spots, but we were getting a little antsy and we were trying to do a little more than we could.”
With the each out, the championship appeared to be slipping away from the Wildcats, but when Monsour entered the game and slammed the door shut in the fifth, SI got the spark it was seeking.
“Coming into the inning, our coach was talking about how we needed to find a shift in momentum and how we needed to shut them down, come back and score some runs,” Monsour said, “I was nervous coming in, but once I got that first strikeout, I felt pretty good about being out there.”
In the game-changing sixth inning, Johnson got the rally started with a lead-off walk. Matt Krook and Jack Klein then hit back-to-back singles to load the bases with no outs.
Pinch-hitter Jack Stinn grounded out to first base to score Johnson, then SI tied the game when Koenig balked in a run and senior Kyle Tillinghast put the Wildcats ahead 4-3 with line-drive single into left field.
Monsour held Aptos scoreless for the last six outs, setting off a wild celebration on the field.
“[It’s been an] unbelievable ride,” Johnson said. “This is huge and we couldn’t end it any better way. I’m going to miss playing with this team. It’s been a wild ride.”
SI – Matt Krook singles, Nico Giarratano scores
A – Nico Bailey scores on an error
A – John Evans singles, Gunnar Glaum scores
A – Orey Wafford steals home
SI – Jack Stinn grounds out, Nick Johnson scores
SI – Krook scores on balk
SI – Kyle Tillinghast singles, Jack Klein scores
SI – Jason Lock doubles, Tillinghast scores