Spartans advance to NCS title game for 7th straight year

The De La Salle High baseball team scored five runs in the third inning and three Spartans pitchers combined for a five-hitter in a 9-1 victory over College Park in a North Coast Section Division 1 semifinal game Wednesday. De La Salle’s victory sets up an all-East Bay Athletic League Division 1 championship game on Saturday. The fifth-seeded Spartans (20-8) will face No. 3 Monte Vista (21-8) at Saint Mary’s College at 4 p.m. The Mustangs defeated De La Salle in both of the teams’ regular-seasons games against each other this year – 8-3 on March 22 and 8-6 on April 28. “They are very good. They have beaten us twice, so obviously they are the favorites,” said De La Salle coach David Jeans. “It is going to be a dogfight,” said De La Salle’s Ryan Cole, who had an RBI single and scored a run Wednesday at De La Salle. “I think we are playing our best baseball right now.” It sure looked like that Wednesday. Pitching-wise, Spartans starter Cullen Kafka pitched two-hit ball through three innings and allowed only an unearned run in the fourth inning before leaving the game with a three-hitter after 54 pitches. Nick Cirelli and Kyle Ridgway pitched shutout ball the rest of the way for De La Salle. Offensively, the Spartans put a crooked number on the scoreboard in the first inning to take control right away. With two outs, Cole walked, Gabe Giosso singled and Gio Mijares walked to load the bases. Trace Tammaro then walked to bring in the first run of the game, and an infield single by Michael Curran drove in another run. But De La Salle broke open the game in the third inning, sending nine batters to the plate against the ninth-seeded Falcons (17-10), who upset No. 1 seed San Ramon Valley in the quarterfinals. Mijares started the onslaught with an off-field solo home run over the right field-fence for a 3-0 Spartans advantage. “I just knew that we had to add one more, keep adding one more at a time,” Mijares said. Tammaro was hit by a pitch, and a ground-rule double to right-center field by Austin Elder put baserunners at second and third. After a walk to pinch hitter John Deitchman, a fielder’s choice grounder by Khalid Johnson brought in one run, then Nick Santiago ripped a two-run triple for a 6-0 De La Salle lead. Cole immediately bunted to drive in Santiago for a 7-0 De La Salle advantage. A groundout by Matthew Guerra drove in College Park’s run in the fourth inning. De La Salle scored single runs in the fourth and fifth innings when Curran scored on a passed ball and Johnson crossed home plate on a wild pitch. Johnson, De La Salle’s leadoff hitter, was 2 for 3 with two doubles a two runs scored. He was the only Spartan with more than one hit Wednesday, as six De La Salle players produced hits. De La Salle, the defending NCS Division 1 champion, has reached seven straight Division 1 championship games. Christian Encarnacion-Strand was 2 for 3 with a double for College Park.

by Phil Jensen - Bay Area News Group