Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Menlo-Atherton’s Matt McGarry strokes a bases-loaded double during the Bears’ six-run sixth inning. It wasn’t enough as M-A fell 10-6 to Riordan.
Expectations were high for the Menlo-Atherton baseball team coming into the 2014 campaign.
And while the Bears still find themselves in a first-place tie atop the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division standings, things are not all perfect in Atherton. They lost three of four to start the month of April, culminating with a 1-0 loss to Sacred Heart Prep last Friday.
The Bears appeared to have rebounded with a 6-3 win over Los Altos last Saturday and an 8-0 victory over Half Moon Bay Monday, but M-A backslid in a 10-6 loss to Riordan Wednesday.
“No pitching, no defense, no hitting,” said M-A manager Mike Amoroso. “No school (M-A is on spring break), no fans, started half-hour early and, at the same time, they might be a little tired.”
M-A (12-6 overall) played four games last week and Wednesday’s game was the second of three this week. But there was no energy against Riordan, and maybe Crusaders pitcher Christian Hammerich had something to do with it, as he handcuffed the Bears for most of the game. Hammerich cruised through the first 5 1/3 innings before running out of gas — and that’s when the M-A offense finally came alive.
Until then, it was all Riordan (9-11). M-A starter A.J. Lemons pitched well enough to have a different outcome, but shaky defense led to a three-run second inning for the Crusaders.
“We do trust A.J.,” Amoroso said. “Unfortunately, our defense didn’t help anything.”
Riordan added a fourth run in the fifth before scoring three more in the sixth against four different M-A pitchers. All of the runs in the sixth were scored on just one hit and five walks, adding to Amoroso’s frustrations.
In the bottom of the frame, the M-A offense suddenly erupted out of nowhere. After managing just two hits through the first five innings and not getting a runner past second base, the Bears put together a six-run, five-hit inning frame, closing the gap on the scoreboard to just one run, 7-6.
Lawson Joos got the inning started with a bunt single and Erik Amundson walked. Following a strikeout, Lemons singled to left to load the bases. Matt McGarry followed and, on the first pitch, drove the ball into the right-center field gap for a two-run double and ended Hammerich’s day.
M-A’s Max Gardiner greeted Riordan reliever Jackson Chase with a two-run double of his own and, just like that, M-A was down only 7-4.
And the hits kept coming for the Bears. Jordan Long singled to drive in the fifth run of the inning and when the Riordan center fielder missed his cutoff man, Long took second. Brian Coggins walked to bring up Charlie Cain, who hit a grounder to shortstop with what looked to be a sure inning-ending double play. The Crusaders got the out at second but Cain beat the throw to first and Long raced around third and beat the throw home to cut Riordan’s lead to 7-6.
A flyout ended the inning but gave the Bears some life — until the Crusaders responded with three runs in the top of the seventh.
“This has been a thorn in our side. We’ll play (well) one inning and that’s kind of it,” Amoroso said. “I’m proud of them for fighting for one inning, but I told them (after the game), if we were in a gang fight, we’d be bleeding out in the hospital.”