SAN JOSE — After all zeros by the starting pitchers and flawless fielding from the defenses, an epic Central Coast Section Division I baseball final ended Saturday night with the game’s only run.
Fire shortstop and leadoff hitter in the St Francis lineup Elias Duncan stepped into the batsman’s box at the bottom of the eighth inning and the bases were full and no one was out.
“It just takes a play,” he said.
As the ball came off Duncan’s bat, Excite was heading into the ballpark’s deep center field, Junior knew the game was finally over.
Derek Gill tagged third after star centerfielder Henry Bolte chased Duncan’s flyball and crossed home plate with the winner as St Francis won 1–0 to capture their ninth division title .
A game that will be remembered for seven scoreless innings by each of the starting pitchers – St. Francis Blake Rogers and Palo Alto’s Sam Papp – ended with the top-seeded Lancers celebrating their third championship of the spring.
They won the West Catholic Athletic League regular season and postseason tournament titles at their home ground in Mountain View. But neither matches the drama that unfolded on Saturday at the venue, formerly known as San Jose Municipal Stadium.
“What a game,” said St Francis coach Matt Maguire. “Division I CCS, two best teams, that’s exactly what you’d expect to get.”
Both teams brought patience, chivalry and talent – lots of talent – to the field.
But no scoring.
“From the first two innings, we knew it was going to be a pitchers duel,” said Bolte, a Texas commit. “We had some hard-hitting balls, some really great play by his team. It really came down to who was going to score first. Blake Rogers threw an absolute gem, and I can’t say enough about Sam Papp. This is his incredible performance.
“It was a special game to watch.”
Palo Alto (26–6) loaded bases twice in the third inning and seventh against Baylor-committed Rogers. Both times one was needed, Rogers got it. A flyball to left field ended third and a groundball to seventh to trap three more runners.
“We knocked on the door,” said Palo Alto coach Pete Fukuhara. “We just couldn’t bust through.”
While he was on the mound, Papp did not allow one runner to overtake the other. Junior scored 13 runs in a row and gave only three hits in the first seven innings without a walk.
He was dropped after Gill finished eighth.
“Maybe we didn’t get it out today,” Papp said. “But there is no one with whom I will go to war.”
After Pappa stood up and cheered, St. Francis (29-4) went to work. Luke Devine made a quick run and Brady Choi, who was trying to get the runners into second and third, reached an error to fill base.
Stepped up was Duncan, the perfect man for the spot.
“He literally made for that situation,” Maguire said. “That kid is made to put the ball in play. He is made to hit the line drive. He is made to work in the middle of the field. He did what he has done for us a hundred times this year. I’m just proud that he was able to accomplish this. Proud that we were able to accomplish this.”
Both teams would advance to the opening of the California Interscholastic Federation NorCal Regional. The matchups will be announced on Sunday with the first of three rounds starting on Tuesday.
While it will be an opportunity to play more games, it was clear during and after Saturday’s fight how much winning the segment meant for both sides.
“It’s one of the best high school sports I’ve been a part of,” Fukuhara said. “It was a dogfight. Both teams went back and forth. It’s great to play like this and against St. Francis.”