Baseball: Hillsdale rides unlikely pitching tandem past SHP

 

By Terry Bernal Daily Journal Staff  ~ Updated

 

Looking to stay on the bubble in the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division standings, Hillsdale produced a big two-game-series split with league frontrunner Sacred Heart Prep.

The Knights (3-3 PAL Bay, 11-6 overall) dropped the series opener to the Gators last Wednesday 10-1, but bounced back with arguably their gutsiest win of the year last Friday, outlasting SHP through 10 innings 1-0.

“It was a really good bounce back,” Hillsdale manager James Madison said. “We didn’t know who we were after the last game where we just, bottom line, didn’t show up to play. And we know that’s a pretty good team in [SHP]. So we were dead set on not trying to overdo it, not trying to rev up too much, just get back to what we do and battle back.”

With the win, Hillsdale remains on the fourth-place bubble in the league standings as the Bay Division schedule nears the halfway point of the season. The top four finishers in the Bay earn automatic bids to the Central Coast Section playoffs.

Hillsdale had to rely on a relatively new arm to the starting rotation in the series finale with SHP (4-1, 13-4) in junior Jason Alba, and the right-hander turned in the finest game of his varsity career. In just his third varsity start, Alba worked seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Senior right-hander Jaxon Skidmore came on in relief, firing three no-hit innings to preserve the combined one-hitter, and earn the win.

“[Alba] was tremendous,” Madison said. “He kept them off balance, and he was calm and poised.”

Skidmore, the ace of the staff, generally starts Hillsdale’s Friday games. Recent shoulder tightness, however, kept him from taking the mound the previous week in a key matchup with Carlmont.

Madison said Skidmore was slated to work in relief in the SHP game, but he didn’t want to extend him through an entire game, hence skipping the senior in the starting rotation.

“We didn’t want to take a chance,” Madison said. “So even going into this series, Alba had pitched well, so we figured let’s baby-step this. … But it was good bringing him in in the back end.”

Alba locked up with SHP ace left-hander Angelo Tonas for quite the pitching duel. Tonas worked into the seventh inning and was trying to pitch out of a jam when he was forced to depart due to reaching the maximum pitch count.

Hillsdale had the bases loaded with one out when Tonas finished his day with a strikeout. Then when senior Henry Marshall entered in relief, the right-hander threw a ball in the dirt that ricocheted off the backstop and back to the mound, allowing Marshall to flip to catcher John McGrory to catch the runner at third trying to score for the final out of the frame and force extra-innings.

In the 10th inning, Hillsdale finally broke through to walk off with the game’s only run.

The Knights again loaded the bases and, with senior Matthew Leong at the plate, SHP reliever Reece Lindquist ran the count full. Leong was sitting fastball and, when he got one, drove a long shot to center field that nearly got caught, but with only one out it would have gotten the job done anyway. It did fall though for an RBI single, plating junior Antonio Paolinelli with the winning run.

Hillsdale is now in an advantageous position in terms of its remaining league schedule. The Knights have already played the top two teams in the division, and have four series left, including with Capuchino and Menlo School — both teams, along with Hillsdale, are currently in a tangle for third- and fourth-place in the Bay Division.

Hillsdale is currently tied for fourth place with Menlo, with Capuchino in third. Carlmont and SHP, tied for first place, have a two-game series this week.

“I think we know as a program we’re right there,” Madison said “We know we cannot only compete with those guys, but we can win.”

In non-league action Saturday, Hillsdale fell at home to El Camino in nine innings 4-3. Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, the Knights rallied for two runs to force extras. But EC rallied for a run in the top of the ninth, which proved the game-winner.

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