As unbelievable as it may sound, the 2013-14 high school sports season is all but over, with only the state track meet left to be contested. So, as is my custom, now is the time when I look back and pick the best of the best of spring.
Best baseball game: Aragon-Menlo-Atherton, PAL tournament.
This was a no-brainer. This second-round game had a little bit of everything over 9 2/3 innings of play. The biggest play was Lawson Joos’ two-run squeeze bunt that gave the Bears a 6-5 win in the bottom of the 10th inning, but there was plenty of other excitement throughout. There was Aragon starting pitcher Chad Franquez picking off four runners, M-A’s Erik Amundson coming up with three hits and two walks in six plate appearances, Aragon’s Brendan Donnelly reaching base in all four of his plate appearances, with three singles, a walk and two runs batted in. He also made a game-saving catch in the right-center field gap in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
All in all, one of most exciting games I’ve seen in years.
Best softball game: Capuchino-Half Moon Bay regular-season finale.
These teams came into the final game of the Bay Division in a three-way tie for second place in the standings, along with Hillsdale. The winner would assure itself a spot in the Central Coast Section playoffs, while the loser would be left applying for an at-large berth.
When the Mustangs scored single runs in the top of the fifth and sixth innings to take a 2-0 lead, it appeared they were poised to grab an automatic berth into the playoffs.
That was before the Cougars scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth to pull out a 3-2 win. And Half Moon Bay did it with two outs and the only reason the Cougars pulled it out was because Amy Francis’ fly ball into left-field foul territory was dropped.
But first, an error by Capuchino enabled Kallista Leonardos to score the Cougars’ first run of the inning. With runners on second and third, Francis came to the plate and lofted an 0-1 pitch into foul territory in left field. The Capuchino left fielder got to the ball — but dropped it. Two pitches later, Francis dropped a ball in front of the left fielder to drive in both Ally Sarabia and Olivia Hedding with what turned out to be the winning run.
Although the Mustangs lost, they still qualified for the CCS playoffs, bowing out in the second round against Mitty. Half Moon Bay advanced to the Division III semifinals before losing to Santa Catalina.
Best individual girls’ performance: Ally Howe, Sacred Heart Prep swimming.
The senior ended her high school career with a bang — winning four titles at the West Bay Athletic League championships and followed that with three new CCS records and a fourth title at the CCS championships.
In the WBAL finals, she set WBAL and school records in the 500 free and 100 back, and was part of two more record-breaking swims in the 200 medley relay and 200 free relay.
At CCS, she was part of the 200 medley relay team that a set a new CCS record. Individually, she set records in the 200 individual medley and the 100 back. She then capped her meet by swimming a leg on the Gators’ 400 free relay-winning squad.
Best individual boys’ performance: Kyle Cambron, Sequoia baseball.
Cambron opened the season with a seven-inning, 130-plus-pitch outing against Carlmont and never slowed down. The senior ended the year with an 11-2 record with one no-decision, with nine consecutive complete games — 11 overall — and a 1.19 ERA. Opponents batted just .217 against Cambron this season.
Best girls’ team: Carlmont softball.
It almost goes without saying as the Scots captured the CCS Division I championship over the weekend. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story of the Scots’ dominance this season. Carlmont went 14-0 in PAL Bay Division play, allowing just 12 runs and shutting out PAL opponents six times and winning by 10-run mercy rule seven times. Despite struggling a bit to get to the CCS championship game, the Scots were spot-on in all facets of the game against eight-time defending CCS champion San Benito, posting an 8-1 win.
Best boys’ team: Menlo School tennis.
The Knights are so good they oftentimes don’t get the praise they deserve. But you can’t argue with their success. This year, Menlo won its sixth straight CCS and Northern California titles.
Two more big-name soccer stars on the international stage have announced their intentions to join Major League Soccer for the 2015 season.
Former Atletico Madrid and Spain national team star David Villa signed with the expansion New York FC club of MLS, which begins play in 2015. Frank Lampard, who has spent 13 seasons with Chelsea in England’s English Premiere League, is also said to be leaning toward signing with New York FC as well.
This is all fine and good the game in the United States. You are starting to see more and more international players finding their way to MLS while they still have some tread on their tires. Lampard is 35 but is still regarded as a top-flight player, while Villa is only 32.
If you ask me, however, their decision to join MLS does not necessarily mean much for the league, but means a whole heck of a lot for New York and the players themselves. Notice whenever a big-name international player — David Beckham or Henry Thierry — joins MLS, they end up in the media hubs of Los Angeles or New York? These players are all about raising the awareness of their brand and not so much of trying to build the game in the U.S. — which is always the stated goal.
While the likes of U.S. stars such as Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) and Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) aren’t necessarily in the backwaters of MLS soccer, they are nonetheless joining big-name clubs. Seattle is arguably the best franchise in MLS and Toronto is the media capital of Canada. So it’s not too surprising to see this level of talent end up there.
MLS will never seriously be considered an option for top-flight international players until the “lesser” teams in the league can start drawing them. If the Columbus Crew, Colorado Rapids or Real Salt Lake teams can start landing these big-name free agents, it will mean something. As long as these players get to hand-pick their MLS teams, it will be more about them than MLS itself.
Nathan Mollat can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 344-5200 ext. 117. He can also be followed on Twitter @CheckkThissOutt.