Brady Bunch

21 May 19
Santa Cruz Sentinel
SANTA CRUZ — Fifty-five hours after the first pitch was thrown, the final out was recorded — making it the longest Central Coast Section baseball game in the six-year history of the prestigious Open Division playoffs. A lineout to first base with two runners on base put an end to Santa Cruz High’s dream season, much to the dismay of dozens of fans crammed into the bleachers at cozy Bill Dodge Field. Junipero Serra, the storied No. 5 seed out of San Mateo, jumped to a two-run lead through 1.5 innings when the teams’ quarterfinal was called due to rain at Half Moon Bay High on Saturday morning. The quarterfinal was continued Monday, 50 miles south and under considerably clearer skies. The only thing that didn’t improve over that span in the No. 4 Cardinals’ 5-2 loss was their offense. “Today, we were in the game, we just couldn’t get that one hit that we needed,” said the Cardinals switch-hitting shortstop GJ Hill, an MLB Draft prospect who has committed to Arizona State. This slideshow requires JavaScript. Santa Cruz, unbeaten champion of the Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League for a second straight season and ranked No. 102 in the state by maxpreps.com, played a stacked nonleague schedule to help it get to this point. It included a pair of 1-0 losses to West Catholic Athletic League powers — No. 73 Saint Francis of Mountain View to open the season March 5 and a 12-inning setback at No. 7 Valley Christian, the WCAL champion, on April 25. It also included a 7-2 loss at No. 37 Archbishop Mitty in San Jose on April 13. Cabrillo College-bound ace Clayton Ray, who took the losses in both 1-0 setbacks, kept the Cardinals in the game against the Padres, but his team was unable to get the timely hit to help oust Serra, the alma mater of MLB home run king Barry Bonds and six-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady. Santa Cruz (22-6) stranded 10 runners and left six of them in scoring position, including San Diego State-committed designated hitter Javier Felix at second base in the bottom of the seventh. Kinsal Plunkett was at first when Brady Chavez lined out to first base to end the game. Three of the four teams in Thursday’s Open Division semifinals at Washington Park in Santa Clara compete in the WCAL. No. 6 seed San Benito (22-6) of the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Gabilan Division faces No. 2 Archbishop Mitty (20-10) at 4 p.m. and Serra (18-9) faces No. 1 Valley Christian (27-4) at 7 p.m. “It’s going to be big time,” Padres center fielder Kannon Clayton said of the next round, “get a little revenge. We’re one and one with them. Hopefully we can take it two-one.” The Cardinals, an eight-time CCS finalist who last won a section crown in Division III in 2003, left the field with no regrets. If the A-League champion was eligible in D-II play this year, they might’ve done significantly more damage. “Going Open for sure is more rewarding, because you know you’re (with) the best high schools around these parts,” Cardinals senior outfielder Brady Chavez said. Down 3-1 entering play in the bottom of the second inning when action resumed, Santa Cruz threw up zeros for three straight innings before finally chasing hard throwing reliever Juliano Rodriguez, a 6-foot-4 right-hander who was hampered by injuries last season. Serra made it 4-1 in the top of the fifth on Clayton’s wind-aided first home run of the season, which cleared the fence in left center field by a foot. “That one, I gave him a cookie, missed my spot, and he got it,” Ray said of his fastball over the heart of the plate. “Middle of the plate, belt high.” Hill doubled in the bottom of the fifth and scored after Felix reached on a fielder’s choice to narrow the deficit to 4-2. Again, the rally was cut short of the Cardinals’ liking after an inning-ending ground out. “I was attacking with fastballs,” said Rodriguez, noting the feel on his curveball and slider was off. “I was feeling pretty good with the velo today. That’s pretty much what I did.” Chavez flew out to the warning track to open the bottom of the sixth. Still, Santa Cruz battled and got runners to second and third with two out, but Alex Williams, the No. 9 hitter in the batting order, struck out on swinging on a 2-2 pitch, stranding Scotty Pramuk and Jacob Pappas on base. Pramuk took over for Ray in the sixth inning. He gave up a run in the seventh after Clayton, who competed in track last season after being cut from the baseball team, reached on a bunt single and scored from first on Dominic Meza’s RBI double off the left-field fence. The core of the Cardinals — a heralded bunch that found success at both the Little League and Pony levels — stayed together with the goal of accomplishing great things at Santa Cruz. Behind third-year senior starters Hill, Felix, Ray and Williams, the Cardinals nearly won the league title as sophomores and went a combined 27-0 in SCCAL play the past two seasons. “Looking back, I just couldn’t be happier with all we’ve done the four years I’ve been here,” Ray said, “and with all my friends; we came up through Little League. We knew we were going to have the best high school team ever since Santa Cruz Little League. And it has all been coming together, this year and last year. And it shows. This team is about it.” The Cardinals lost 1-0 to eventual champion Valley Christian in the Open quarterfinals as sophomores, and were ousted 2-1 by San Benito in the Open quarterfinals last season, when the Warriors repeated as section champs. “This was our chance to go deep in CCS,” Chavez said. And then there was Saturday-slash-Tuesday’s finale, a big hit or two away from moving on. “It hasn’t really set in yet,” said Hill, a former Santa Cruz Little Leaguer who transferred from Mitty after his freshman season to be back with his hometown friends. “Obviously, it has been a fun ride, a fun journey, a fun three years. But it hasn’t really set in that we lost. But I would trade what I did here or my teams did here for anything.” Contact Jim Seimas at 831-706-3256. The Score Serra 5, Santa Cruz 2 Up next for Santa Cruz: End of season
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