Terry Bernal/Daily Journal
Former Capuchino ace Eddie Cecchi returned to the mound for San Bruno Joe DiMaggio with four shutout innings to lead his squad to a 4-0 victory at Lara Field.
Eddie Cecchi is a bulldog.
That was the description given by the home plate umpire after Cecchi pitched his final high school game of 2013 for Capuchino.
However, after a solid season last year with San Bruno Joe DiMaggio, followed by a jaunt through fall ball at Skyline College, Cecchi walked away from the game. It’s a similar story for infielder Jake Steenvorde and Christian Bautista, each of whom, like Cecchi, graduated from Capuchino in 2013 but did not play collegiately in ’14.
Now, the trio is back on the diamond for the San Bruno Joe DiMaggio squad. And Cecchi, for one, is poised to sharpen his bulldog approach in an effort to make the team at City College of San Francisco during fall tryouts.
“They’re just guys who had personal stuff going on,” San Bruno manager Edgar Hernandez said. “The situation wasn’t adequate for them to play (in college in 2014). So, they just took the year off. You know, everybody has got to make a living now. And they took it upon themselves … to come back, get back into the swing of things and try to make the team again next year.”
What makes this year’s San Bruno squad unique is the team has no players on roster who played college ball in 2014. That is a far cry from the foundation upon which San Bruno Joe DiMaggio has traditionally been built. The team has always featured a range of age groups, and still does. At 19, Steenvorde and Bautista are the oldest players on roster. The youngest is 14-year-old Damian Hernandez.
Unlike last year’s team, which featured cleanup hitter Lucciano Molina fresh off a season at Skyline, or two years ago when Skyline standout Cory Faubel brought veteran leadership, all of this year’s veteran contingent has yet to play in an official college season.
“I think the core of our guys will actually get a chance to go on and play,” Hernandez said.
Cecchi returned to the diamond in style Wednesday, firing four shutout innings in San Bruno’s 4-0 win over the San Francisco Cardinals Joe DiMaggio squad at Lara Field. Pitching into and out of trouble all evening, Cecchi demonstrated the hard-and-heavy sink which made him the ace at Capuchino last year.
Despite allowing runners to reach scoring position in each of the four innings, Cecchi powered through the Cardinals batting order. In earning the win, he walked four but struck out five, including three punch outs in the first inning after allowing a leadoff triple to start the game.
Not a bad effort for his first outing of the summer, and the first baseball game he’s played in since last fall.
“He battled and he competed,” Hernandez said. “That’s all you really ask for out of a guy, especially when he doesn’t have a foundation under him and he hasn’t competed in a while.”
Cecchi continued to pitch through trouble. In the second he left a runner stranded at second by punctuating the inning with a strikeout. In the third, he faced another first-and-third jam, one-out jam, but escaped by getting consecutive outs on a punch out and a harmless pop-up.
In the fourth, Cecchi seemed destined for his only one-two-three inning of the game, but with two outs he got snake bit by bad defense when San Bruno’s outfield misplayed a can-of-corn fly ball. The Cardinals followed with a swinging bunt up the third-base line that died on the thick infield grass for a single. But Cecchi buckled down and got a routine fly out to right field to end the inning.
Through four innings of work, Cecchi left seven runners stranded, including four in scoring position.
San Bruno catcher Billy Wood — a recent graduate of Capuchino who did not play baseball for the school this season — concurred with the “bulldog” assessment of his battery mate.
“He’s got a bulldog attitude,” Wood said.
Wood should serve as a strength for Cecchi this season, as the best friends have played together since their days with the Muscats in San Bruno Pony League. In that time, Wood has seen the 5-9 Cecchi develop an array of pitching tools which have always been dangerous.
“He’s got a really good ability to throw the ball very, very hard for his size,” Wood said. “Ever since he was 14 years old he’s always had a little bit of zip on it. Every year he’s gotten stronger and more intelligent.”
If Cecchi continues to do what he did Wednesday, San Bruno should fair well on the mound this season. Cap’s one-two punch of right-hander Rory McDaid and Joe Galea are both in the San Bruno pitching mix, though they are both scheduled for two weeks of downtime after the tandem accumulated a majority of the innings for the Mustangs this season.
Steenvorde had the best game at the dish Wednesday, going 3 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored.
Cardinals center fielder Giang Anderson stole the show on defense though. In the fourth he made two noteworthy plays, first tracking down a long fly ball off the bat of McDaid, before robbing Cecchi of a single with an all-out dive to end the inning. Then in the fifth on a sacrifice fly attempt, Anderson gunned down a San Bruno runner at the plate to end the inning on an impressive double play.