Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
In addition throwing a shutout, Cameron Greenough added a sacrifice fly in the second.
It was unorthodox dominance, but dominance nonetheless.
Sequoia right-hander Cameron Greenough fired a three-hit shutout to lead the No. 3-seed Cherokees (21-7-1) to a 3-0 win over No. 6 Christopher (16-12) in the Central Coast Section Division I quarterfinals Saturday at Sacred Heart Prep.
What was unorthodox about the pitching gem was Greenough stranding runners in scoring position in each of the first six innings. But the senior was nails to the strike zone, striking out seven against two walks and a hit batsman, while not allowing a hit after the third inning en route to his second consecutive shutout.
Sequoia has posted a 1.57 team ERA this season.
After entering the postseason not having won a CCS playoff game since 1998, the Cherokees are now poised for one more turn through their outstanding pitching rotation. With the win, Sequoia advances to the CCS semifinals to take on No. 2-seed Westmont Thursday at San Jose Municipal Stadium at 4 p.m.
“We just feel really good that our brand of baseball is paying off for us right now,” Sequoia manager Corey Uhalde said. “We’ve preached all year that we pitch, we play defense, we execute on offense. … If we do the things that we’ve talked about then it will pay off. And it’s gotten us to this spot.”
Greenough not only got it done on the mound. He helped himself with the bat, producing a second-inning sacrifice fly to get Sequoia on the board. Sequoia got some cushion in the fourth inning on a two-run single by Zane Gelphman. From there, the Cherokees rode pitching and defense to the victory.
“The way Cameron was pitching, we were just trusting him,” Gelphman said. “We were putting all our eggs in one basket in Cameron. We knew that he knew that his defense had his back.”
After relying on inning-ending strikeouts to get out of jams in the second, third and fourth innings, Greenough got three key groundouts in the fifth. With one out, Christopher leadoff hitter Brennan Wilson was hit by a pitch then stole second on the first offering to Richard Suarez. Suarez battled to a 3-2 count before Greenough induced a groundout to second baseman Carson Parodi. Wilson moved to third on the play but was stranded there when Makaio Duyao grounded out to shortstop Jarrett Crowell to end the inning.
In the sixth, Greenough faced his tallest task of the afternoon. After walking Cougars cleanup hitter Kevin Willard, the senior stole second and with no outs moved to third on a wild pitch, on which Sequoia catcher Chris Ortiz had his throw to third base nearly sail into left field. To regroup, Crowell quickly converged on the mound to give his pitcher a pep talk.
“He came over to me and was like, ‘This one is you. We’ve got confidence in you. Hit it to your infield if you need to. But just go up there and beat that batter,’” Greenough said.
Greenough responded by retiring the last six batters he faced in the game.
To strand Willard at third base in the sixth, Greenough got three straight outs essentially by himself. After running a 3-1 count to Gordan Papalias, Greenough nabbed a comebacker with a backhand and checked Willard at third before firing to first for the out. Then Greenough took Bryan Easton to task on a three-pitch strikeout before finishing the inning with a generous called third strike on an outside fastball to Josh Wheat.
Greenough recorded his only one-two-three inning of the game in the seventh to end it.
Offensively, Sequoia cleanup hitter Liam Clifford and No. 5 hitter Gelphman were a force, combing for a 5-for-6 day at the plate.
“This was definitely an outstanding performance,” Gelphman said. “I think that we were more dialed in today than ever. The more we go into CCS the more psyched we get.”
Clifford was 3 for 3 with a double; a towering opposite-field shot to right to lead off the second. Gelphman followed with a sharp single to center to move Clifford to third. Then Greenough lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Clifford, giving Sequoia a 1-0 lead.
In the third, Matt Lopez drew a one-out walk. With two outs, Lopez moved to third on a single to center by Clifford, who moved to second an ill-advised throw to third base by Cougars center fielder Papalias. Then Gelphman delivered a clutch single to center to plate Lopez and Clifford, giving Sequoia a 3-0 lead.
“It was two outs. That’s a must-have. You’ve got to get a hit,” Gelphman said. “I had just taken a painted fastball on the outside corner, so I was looking for something off-speed and trusting my hands to react to a fastball. I got a fastball and I was just not trying to do too much with it and got a hold of it.”
With the win, Greenough improves to 4-2, surpassing his varsity wins total through 2012 and ‘13. Following his sophomore and junior seasons, he entered into 2014 with a 3-2 career record. And while the white-hot spotlight has been on senior ace Kyle Cambron’s current streak of eight consecutive complete games, Greenough proved his ace-potential Saturday as the Cherokees’ No. 2 starter. And like Cambron, Greenough exhibited that which has fast become a signature trait of Sequoia baseball — intensity.
“We have to out-intensity the other team,” Uhalde said. “I thought we did that on Thursday (in the CCS opener) against Fremont, and I think we did that [Saturday]. I think our team will leave the ballpark thinking nobody will want it more than we do. So, that’s good at this time of the season.”