Washington-Fremont third baseman Stevie Murata might never forget the eighth inning Wednesday in the first round of the North Coast Section Division II baseball playoffs. In the top half of the frame, with the score tied, Newark Memorial’s Ashraf Yusuf absolutely crushed a line drive that was targeted for left field, a certain single, maybe more. But Murata soared Superman-style, and the ball somehow found as his outstretched glove. “I just took one step to the left and laid out,” he said. “I was on the ground. I looked, and it was in there.” Newark Memorial coach Larry Murray called the play “awesome,” adding, “Why couldn’t you do that against somebody else.” Added Washington coach Michael Sewell, “He came out his shoes for us on that one. He’s been growing as a ballplayer. He continues to impress.” Then in the bottom half of the inning, as the wind swirled and rain intensified, Murata came to bat with two out and the winning run at second. The senior wasted no time. He hit a single to left that drove in Damian Stone as second-seeded Washington celebrated a 5-4 victory over its Mission Valley Athletic League counterpart. The Huskies will play host to Northgate or Benicia in the quarterfinals Saturday.
Small-ball lifts Huskies
Washington showed in the first inning why it has 21 wins. Stone opened with a bunt single. Murata followed with a sacrifice bunt that moved Stone to second. Frankie Lawrence reached on an infield single, then Jake Serpa dropped a perfect bunt to bring home Stone. A balk drove in another run and then Jarod Ngo singled to center to make it 3-0. “Playoff baseball,” Sewell said.
No quit in Newark Memorial
The Cougars were only the 15th seed, but they knew they would not be overmatched against Washington. In two previous meetings between the teams this season, Washington won 2-0 and 5-4 in eight innings. Yes, the same score as Wednesday. So after falling behind by three runs in the first inning, Newark Memorial kept battling until it evened the score with two runs in the top of the seventh, the tying run crossing home plate on Jason Malimban’s sacrifice bunt. “They have a lot of fight in them,” Murray said. “I am very proud of them. That’s what I was trying to tell them. That’s a top team over there. They’ve had a great year. They beat us three times, and they’ve been good games.”
Reigning CCS D-I champ back on track
Los Altos is the defending CCS Division I champion and No. 2 seed, but it’s hard to say the Eagles entered the playoffs with any momentum. A four-game skid to end the regular season negated much of the optimism from a 21-1 start. “I told them, ‘Hey, we just focus on the next game because that’s all we’re guaranteed at this point,’” Los Altos coach Gabriel Stewart said. “Luckily, it seems like they embraced that.” Los Altos jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning against No. 15 Menlo-Atherton and put the game out of reach with a five-run rally in the bottom of the sixth for an 8-0 victory. Aaron Parker went 3-for-4 with three doubles and three RBIs, while ace Ryan Baum tossed a six-hit shutout with a walk and five strikeouts. It was the first for the Eagles (22-5) since April 24. “We just got back to the mental habits that it was the next game,” Stewart said. Except, there was no guarantee the weather would cooperate. “It just seemed all of the forecasts said, ‘Look after 5 o’clock all bets are off, and certainly by 6 it seemed like we were going to get some precipitation,’” Stewart said.
It helped that M-A (12-14) arrived early enough to throw the first pitch 30 minutes ahead of schedule. By the time Baum recorded the final out, constant rain poured onto the field. “It would’ve been problematic,” Stewart said. Next up? A matchup with rival Mountain View for a third year in a row in the postseason. “As normal it’s going to be ridiculous,” Stewart said. “There’s not going to be very many secrets between the two teams and to beat them we’re going to have to play a really good game. The seeds really don’t matter.” The No. 10 Spartans (17-10-1) cruised 8-1 past No. 7 Santa Teresa (15-12). Weather permitting, the quarterfinal is Saturday at Fremont-Sunnyvale at 11 a.m.
CCS Open surprise
The times are sites were announced for the eight-team CCS Open Division that starts Saturday. Top seed Valley Christian will play Palo Alto at Fremont High in Sunnyvale. No. 2 seed Archbishop Mitty will travel — yes, travel — to No. 7 seed St. Francis. No. 3 seed Los Gatos will take on No. 6 seed San Benito at Bellarmine, and No. 4 seed Santa Cruz will face No. 5 seed Serra at Half Moon Bay. The Valley Christian-Palo Alto game starts at 2 p.m. The other three games begin at 11 a.m.
Piedmont Hills takes down Wilcox
Had Wilcox defeated Palo Alto on Friday in the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division playoff final, it most likely would have been in the Open Division. Instead, the Chargers landed in Division I and that didn’t work out so well, either. Piedmont Hills, seeded 14th, upset No. 3 seed Wilcox 2-1 to advance to the quarterfinals Saturday at No. 6 seed Bellarmine, a 9-3 winner Wednesday over Oak Grove.
Willow Glen too much for Sobrato
Willow Glen entered the CCS Division II playoffs with an 11-16 record and three losses in its final four regular-season games. But first-year coach Brian Vieira could see light in the distance. “We played a really tough schedule,” he said. “We played well towards the end of the year. It is weird, but in those losses, we picked up some confidence. The kids really came out focused and confident today.” A couple of seniors were catalysts for the No. 13 Rams 3-1 upset of No. 4 Sobrato. Daniel Aguaristi settled down after allowing Sobrato’s only run in the bottom of the first inning and picked up a complete-game victory. Isaac Munoz slammed a solo home run to deep center field in the third inning, and Caleb Rodriguez added an RBI single in the same frame for the last run of the game. The Rams loaded the bases in the second inning before No. 9 hitter Riley Stewart was hit by a pitch for the first Willow Glen run.
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