Nathan Mollat/Daily Journal
Menlo-Atherton’s Charlie Cain, left, who scored the winning run, and Erik Amundson
celebrate following the Bears’ 6-5, walk-off win over Aragon Wednesday.
Aragon’s Devin Grant slides safely across home plate to give the Dons a 5-4 lead in the 10th inning, setting up the dramatic finish in the bottom of the inning.
With sunlight rapidly fading, Menlo-Atherton manager Mike Amoroso decided to take a chance and it paid off in spades.
Trailing Aragon 5-4 in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Bears had runners on second and third with one out. Lawson Joos put down a safety-squeeze bunt and while he was thrown out at first, Matt DeTrempe scored easily from third to tie the score.
The runner at second, Charlie Cain, never slowed as he rounded third and headed home. Brennan Carey’s throw to the plate beat Cain by plenty, but the Aragon catcher could not hold on to the throw and Cain was safe with the winning run, 6-5, setting off a wild celebration by the Bears, who advance to the semifinals of the Peninsula Athletic League baseball tournament Thursday.
The third-seeded Bears will now face No. 2 Terra Nova at 4 p.m. Thursday in Pacifica. The Tigers beat Sacred Heart Prep 8-2 to advance to the semifinals.
Amoroso said the decision to send Cain was one he had planned all along.
“You’re basically trying to get two runs across the plate for the price of one out,” Amoroso said.
For Aragon, which had taken the lead in the top of the 10th on a Spencer Walling RBI single, it was another gut-wrenching loss.
“It’s just a lot of heartbreak in two weeks,” said Aragon manager Lenny Souza. The Dons lost 1-0 to Capuchino in the regular-season finale when the Mustangs scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth May 9.
Souza was more than surprised when he saw Cain heading home.
“Shocked,” Souza said.
The Bears’ gamble put an end to a truly epic game. It’s the third time these teams have faced each other, with the first two ending in ties.
You’ve heard of pitchers having a stressful inning? This was a stressful game for both teams as there were plenty of chances, gutty pitching, some stellar defensive plays and ultimately the boldest move you could possibly find in the game of baseball.
Neither starting pitcher figured in the decision, but M-A’s Matt McGarry and Aragon’s Chad Franquez gave everything they had during a game in which the temperature soared into the high 90s. McGarry worked six innings, allowing four runs on six hits, striking out nine. In nearly 10 innings of play, McGarry’s three straight strikeouts in the top of the fifth was the only 1-2-3 inning of the game.
Franquez battled into the fifth inning, but could not hold a 4-2 lead. With Aragon up 4-2, M-A loaded the bases the bases and scored twice in the fifth to tie the score and chase Franquez.
While Franquez never looked comfortable on the mound, he more than helped his cause by picking off four M-A baserunners during his time on the mound.
Chris Davis came in and did an excellent job in relief of Franquez, pitching the same number of innings as Franquez — 4 1/3 — but was ultimately saddled with the loss.
A.J. Lemon ended up getting the win for the Bears, working four innings, giving up four hits and one run. He worked out of jams in every inning he was on the mound.
Despite committing four errors on the day, it was the Aragon defense that kept the teams playing for nearly four hours. Twice it appeared the Bears were poised to score the go-ahead or winning run, and twice they were denied on stupendous plays. In the bottom of the sixth, M-A had runners on first and second with one out. Erik Amundson singled sharply to center and Amoroso sent DeTrempe home.
But two perfect throws nailed DeTrempe at the plate. First, Aragon center fielder Brenden Donnelly fired a strike to cutoff man Carey, who then fired home to catcher Kyle Hamilton, who swiped a tag on DeTrempe, as he tried to slide to the outside of home plate. A strikeout ended the inning for the Bears.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Bears had the winning run at third base with two outs and Max Gardiner at the plate. Gardiner launched an 0-2 pitch deep into the right-center field gap. Donnelly got on his horse and as he approached the fence the ball seemingly dropped over his left shoulder and into his glove to end the inning.
Aragon got on the scoreboard first in the first inning on only one hit — a single. Franquez led off the game with a single up the middle, went to second on a wild pitch, took third on a passed ball and scored on a McGarry balk.
M-A came right back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning. Amundson led off with a double and went to third when Aragon failed to cleanly handle a sacrifice bunt. Jordan Long’s fielder’s choice plated Amundson and Brett Moriarity followed with an RBI single to put M-A up 2-1.
Aragon tied the score in top of the second when Matt Foppiano, who had singled with one out, ended up scoring on the first of two Donnelly RBIs on the game.
The Dons took a 4-2 lead with a pair of runs in the fourth, with Walling driving in the first of his two RBIs and Donnelly had his second RBI in as many innings.
M-A came up empty in the third and fourth innings before tying the game in the fifth with Moriarity and driving in a run on a grounder and a Daniel Kollar-Gasiewski bases-loaded walk.
Both teams had plenty of opportunities to take the lead, but each time the pitchers worked out of trouble — until the 10th when all hell broke loose.
“For this team, especially, I’m really glad they battled,” Amoroso said. “They put pressure on Aragon and never gave up.”
In other PAL tournament action, Ocean Division champion Capuchino upset top-seeded Carlmont, 5-3. The Mustangs will travel to No. 4 Menlo School Thursday, which beat Half Moon Bay 5-4 with a walkoff run in the bottom of the seventh.