Depending on which team you were rooting for in Tuesday’s Capuchino-Sequoia baseball matchup, the ball off the bat of Cap’s Anthony Orcholski took either a bad or fortuitous bounce.
It was Orcholski’s shot off the third-base bag in the top of the fifth inning that drove in what turned out to be the game-winning runs as the Mustangs topped Sequoia 3-1 in the first round of the inaugural Peninsula Athletic League baseball tournament.
Orcholski took a 1-0 pitch from Sequoia’s Zane Gelphman and pulled it right down the third-base line. The ball hit the bag, bounced over the head of Sequoia third baseman Cameron Greenough and — most importantly — stayed fair, driving in Kyle Patterson and Rory McDaid, snapping a 1-1 tie.
That was enough offense for Capuchino starting pitcher Joe Galea, who pitched a complete game in picking up the win.
“I knew it would be a close game,” said Capuchino manager Matt Wilson. “We didn’t put up a ton of runs, but got clutch hits when we needed them.”
Cap and Sequoia finished as co-champions of the PAL’s Ocean Division this season, and while Tuesday’s game had no bearing on breaking the tie, it could be seen as a de facto tiebreaker.
Neither Wilson, nor his Sequoia counterpart Corey Uhalde, however, were jumping for joy to face each other in the tournament opener.
“It really is a shame [we] had to play each other in the first round,” Wilson said.
If nothing else, both teams showed why they were the cream of the Ocean crop this season. Both Galea and Gelphman pitched well enough to win. Galea went the distance, allowing just one unearned run on six hits.
“Joe did a fantastic job,” Wilson said. “It was his turn in the rotation. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind (he would get the start).
“He didn’t throw a lot of pitches and did a good job of keeping them off balance. I’ve been with Joe all year and he’s the type of kid who will step up in big situations.”
Galea cruised through the first five innings before running into trouble in the final two. Tommy Lopiparo led off the bottom of the sixth with a single before Galea got the next two batters. Liam Clifford came up with a single and Gelphman walked on four pitches to load the bases.
Greenough came to the plate and Galea continued his wild streak, throwing three straight balls to Greenough. It looked as if Greenough had drawn a walk, but the home-plate umpire thought otherwise, calling a strike. Greenough then popped out on the next pitch to end the threat.
In the seventh, Galea got the first two outs before Chris Ortiz singled and Lopiparo walked. But Galea induced a popout to shortstop to end the game.
“I thought he was good,” Uhalde said of Galea’s performance. “He’s not going to give in to a batter.”
Gelphman was just as effective. He pitched six strong innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. He had a no-hitter going through three innings before Capuchino touched him for a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth. He gave way to Kenny Belanger for the seventh.
“I was really proud of [Gelphman]. It was only his second start of the year,” Uhalde said.
Sequoia had its chances to put some runs on the board, but they ran out of a couple of opportunities. In the bottom of the first, Matt Lopez and Jarrett Crowell had back-to-back, one-out singles. But Lopez was caught trying to steal third for the second out of the inning and a Galea strikeout ended the threat.
In the fourth, again with runners on first and second, Capuchino catcher Ramon Enriquez picked off a runner who had wandered too far away from the second-base bag. He was tagged out at third. The Cherokees ended up scoring in the inning when Gelphman’s sacrifice fly drove in Liam Clifford, but the Cherokees would get only three more runners into scoring position the rest of the game.
The Mustangs drew first blood in the top of the fourth as they strung together three straight hits — the final being an RBI single off the bat of Antonio Martinucci which drove in Enriquez, who had singled to lead off the inning.
Sequoia came back to tie the score in the bottom of the inning. Clifford was hit by a pitch, stole second, went to third on an errant pickoff throw and then scored on Gelphman’s sac fly.
Capuchino took the lead for good in the fifth on Orcholski’s hit off the third-base bag.
Capuchino now advances to the second round where the Mustangs will face top-seeded Carlmont at 4 p.m. Wednesday in Belmont.
“I’m looking forward to playing [Carlmont],” Wilson said. “You’re going to have to play the best sometime.”
Sequoia, meanwhile, will go back to work and get ready for the Central Coast Section playoffs.
“The biggest priority for us is to get our pitching lined up for CCS,” Uhalde said. “We just need to make sure we use the next four or five days of practice (wisely).”