The stakes were high as Carlmont headed into Half Moon Bay Thursday.
A Carlmont win would have clinched the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division title outright for the Scots. A Half Moon Bay win meant the Cougars would remain in the driver’s seat en route to clinching a fifth-place finish to ensure a Central Coast Section playoff berth.
Enter Half Moon Bay’s Mike Rupert. The right hander delivered the most outstanding pitching performance of his varsity career under the most crucial circumstances, firing a complete-game victory as the Cougars topped the Scots 5-2.
In his first start since March 4, Rupert took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He persevered through one rough inning to go the distance as the senior earned the first win of his varsity career.
Since injuries knocked Rupert out of the Cougars’ starting rotation at the beginning of the season, he returned to the mound in relief last week, proving solid through a pair of two-inning appearances against Cupertino and Westmont.
“You could tell [Rupert] was getting it back,” Half Moon Bay manager Steve Terraszas said. “Today we figured, let’s let him start today on senior day. We’ll save our two lefties for (the last two regular-season games against) Menlo and Burlingame, and if he ends up doing well for us, that’s a bonus. And he ended up having the game of his career.”
The Half Moon Bay offense gave Rupert all the support he would need by scoring in each of the first four innings. Fueled by two-hit performances by Phillip Anderson, Chet Silveria and Kyle Harwood, the Cougars touched Carlmont starting pitcher Joe Pratt for one in the first, one in the second and two more in the third before adding an insurance run in the fourth against Scots reliever Ryan Giberton.
In the first, Half Moon Bay leadoff hitter Gabe Bauer set the stage by finessing a nine-pitch at-bat for a leadoff walk. Then, with two outs, Silveria scorched a double up the gap in left-center to score Bauer, giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
In the second, Harwood shot a leadoff double up the right-center gap. With two outs, Harwood alertly stole third and soon scored when Sergio Gutierrez blooped an RBI single to center, giving Half Moon Bay a 2-0 lead.
In the third, Anderson led off with a single. The Scots had a chance to turn a double play when Brett Berghammer followed with a sharp grounder to second. But a slight bobble by the Carlmont second baseman allowed Berghammer enough time to beat out the back end. The Cougars made the Scots pay, as Berghammer stole second then moved to third on an infield single by Silveria. Rupert then helped his own cause with an RBI single to score Berghammer. Harwood followed with an RBI single to plate Silveria, giving the Cougars a 4-0 lead.
Facing Giberton in the fourth, Sergio Gutierrez drew a one-out walk. Gutierrez stole second and took third on the play on a throwing error by Carlmont catcher Connor Loucks. Then Anderson shot an RBI single to center to score Gutierrez, staking Half Moon Bay to a 5-0 lead, all before Carlmont even tabbed its first hit.
The Scots got on the board the following inning. Pinch hitter Mike McGill notched the first Scots hit on the afternoon to start the fifth. Courtesy runner Julian Billot moved to third on an errant pickoff throw by Rupert. Nick Thompson drove home Billot with a single to center. Aaron Pleschner followed with a one-out single. Then Kyle Barret put a charge into a high changeup for a ground-rule double to left, scoring Thompson.
But Rupert buckled down, striking out back-to-back Scots batters to retire the side. Rupert totaled six strikeouts on the day.
“We obviously thought we could [come back],” Barret said. “We thought we could get the runs home. Their pitcher threw a pretty good game. He was getting his off-speed over and we were having trouble getting guys on and getting those clutch hits.”
With Thursday’s win, Half Moon Bay (5-5 in PAL Bay Division, 12-11 overall) is now one win away from clinching its first CCS berth since 2011. The Cougars have two games remaining on their regular-season schedule:at Menlo Friday and a rain-makeup game at Burlingame Saturday.
In closing out the regular season with a loss, Carlmont (8-4, 15-10-1) is ensured of at least a co-championship with Terra Nova. Currently a half game back of Carlmont in the Bay Division standings, the Tigers wrap up their season Friday night at Burlingame.
“We’re a champion no matter which way you look at it,” Carlmont manager Rich Vallero said. “It puts [Terra Nova’s] own fate in their own hands. We’re already done. So, the worst we can be is a champion.”