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Gil Ruiz, the head coach of the Pacific Grove baseball team, has been on opposite sides of the success spectrum. As a young assistant at Alisal of Salinas, he watched as the team struggled to an 0-28 record.
What happened to Ruiz and his 2013 team at Pacific Grove is a lot better.
The Breakers headed into their final game at Municipal Stadium in San Jose on Saturday against Menlo School of Atherton sitting pretty with a 30-0 record and a 37-game win streak. The CIF Central Coast Section Division III title, a crown Pacific Grove won last season, was on the line.
But as anybody who’s been around baseball for a long time knows, anything can happen in a winner-take-all, one-game championship. Pacific Grove’s players must have thought about that when Menlo scored twice in the top of the first inning.
Any negative thoughts, however, didn’t last long. The Breakers came back with six runs in the bottom of the first and went on to beat the Knights 10-4.
In winning, Ruiz’s squad posted the best record for any team in Northern California history, surpassing the mark of 30-0 set two years ago by Maxwell of the CIF Northern Section. The Breakers also move to No. 2 on the all-time state list, trailing only the 35-0 record posted in 2004 by Chatsworth of the CIF L.A. City Section.
“Absolutely, we were shaky at the beginning,” Ruiz said. “I could see that and it was the only time all season the we didn’t feel the way we wanted to feel.”
“We were not worried,” said sophomore shortstop Chris Fife, who helped fuel the offense with a double and a triple. “The best way to come back is to keep morale up. It’s an amazing feeling to experience this season with these seniors.”
Fife’s triple in the bottom of the first drove in two runs and pushed Pacific Grove’s lead to 6-2. The Breakers had taken a 3-2 lead when senior Kevin Russo laid down a suicide squeeze bunt that scored starting pitcher Conyol Cody and then got an RBI single by Anthony Coppla.
Menlo, which always plays one of the toughest schedules of any small school in Northern California, had its chances to get back into the game but didn’t score with the bases loaded and one out in the third and didn’t score with runners at second and third and one out in the fifth.
Breakers’ fans got another thrill in the sixth inning when Ruiz sent senior Kyle Czeplak to the plate for an at-bat. Czeplak was arguably the team’s top returning player from last season with a college scholarship to Santa Clara, but hadn’t played one inning or hadn’t batted once due to hip injuries. Czeplak walked and left the game to some very appreciative cheers.
Even without a player like that, the Breakers not only got it done but got it done like few teams in California history ever have.
“I had so much faith in my guys all year and they had so much faith in each other,” Ruiz said. “We had teams that competed against us, but it was always about one game at a time.”
Pacific Grove’s place in the Cal-Hi Sports state record book:
Most Consecutive Wins
54 – Chatsworth, 2003-2005
48 – Maxwell, 2010-2012
42 – Napa Justin-Siena, 2004-06
38 – Linden, 2004-05
38 – Pacific Grove, 2012-13 (current)
36 – Lompoc, 1970-71
30 – Concord De La Salle, 1985-86
30 – Santa Maria St. Joseph, 1997-98
30 – Clovis, 1998-99
Most Wins (Perfect Season)
35 – Chatsworth, 2004 (35-0)
31 – Pacific Grove, 2013 (31-0)
30 – Maxwell, 2011 (30-0)
29 – Santa Maria St. Joseph, 1997 (29-0)
27 – Napa Justin-Siena, 2005 (27-0)
26 – Ontario, 1991 (26-0)
26 – Linden, 2005 (26-0)
25 – Temecula Linfield, 1991 (25-0)
In the CCS Division I baseball finals:
St. Francis (Mountain View) 10, Serra (San Mateo) 0
The Lancers threw some monkeys off their backs with this win, earning their first CCS title since 2001 and the first since current head coach Mike Oakland assumed the reigns from the legendary Chris Bradford seven years ago.
There have been some similarly talented teams at St. Francis that were not able to win that final game in a CCS final. This one has done it and in the process will finish no lower than No. 3 in the final overall state rankings. And if both current No. 1 Granada of Livermore and current No. 2 Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood lose in the next week, St. Francis would then be next in line to be named State Team of the Year.
Impressive junior left-hander John Gavin led the charge for the Lancers by throwing a one-hitter and striking out eight batters. He did not have to pitch into the top of the seventh when St. Francis scored three final runs to end the game on the 10-run rule. The final run came in when Chris Baker was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
“It was really hard to do what we just did,” Oakland said. “The kids grinded it out and there were no freebies in our league. This is the best team I’ve ever coached or been around.”
After St. Francis had been shut down on no hits in its first three innings by Serra pitcher Orlando Razo, the team broke through on a hit batter (Austin Guibor) followed by screaming double into left-center by Hunter Simmons.
On that play, Serra’s Jordan Paroubeck and Neil Sterling smacked into each other. After a few scary moments, they both got up and remained in the game. Guibor then scored on a wild pitch with Simmons coming in to score when Mark Cardinalli hit a grounder in which Simmons beat the throw home. After Baker’s single loaded the bases, Cardinalli scored on a walk.
Gavin did not allow a hit until the top of the fifth inning, appropriately and of course as soon as someone on press row mentioned that he had a perfect game going. Christian Conci collected the hit on a liner to left but was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double.
With Gavin throwing the way he was, St. Francis didn’t need to add many runs after the three-spot in the fourth. In the fifth, though, the Lancers made it 5-0 on a two-run single by Cardinalli and then 6-0 on a sacrifice fly by Tim Susnara.
In the CCS Division II baseball finals:
Willow Glen (San Jose) 4, St. Ignatius (SF) 3
The Rams (18-10) won their first section title since 1967 in the 11th inning when an errant throw by the Wildcats on a bunt attempt sailed over the head of the first baseman. That allowed John Riley to score the winning run. St. Ignatius, which was attempting to win its second straight D2 section crown, converted a triple play that helped force the contest to extra innings.
Monterey Bay-Gabilan League sweeps all three CCS softball titles
Top-seeded San Benito of Hollister (25-3) jumped 10 spots in the Cal-Hi Sports state softball rankings last week, and could be jumping a few more this week after the Haybalers won their eighth straight CIF Central Coast Section Division I championship with a five-inning 10-0 victory on Saturday over San Jose Leland.
Balers’ pitcher Megan Sabbatini turned in a masterful performance in her final high school game. The University of San Diego-bound senior who’s been battling nagging injuries all season, was only a one-out base-on-balls way from a five-inning perfect game.
After striking out the final two batters, she completed a no-hitter with 10 strikeouts and the walk.
“I hurt my hip, my arm has been sore all season, but I just kept going out there and pitching. Before the game my focus was just on hitting my spots, but to go out with a no hitter is a great feeling,” Sabbatini told Cal-Hi Sports.
The Balers had 12 hits in their 10 runs but they really didn’t need anything after Taylor Fabing hit a 250-foot three-run home run for the only long fly to leave the PAL facility in San Jose during the entire playoffs. Fabing added a double that hit off the base of the fence and finished with three RBIs and three runs scored.
“Everything happened for me today and I came through,” remarked Fabing.
The victory put San Benito in a position to tie league rival Notre Dame (Salinas) for the top spot in the Cal-Hi Sports State Record Book for Most Consecutive Section Championships should the team win again next year.
Notre Dame won nine straight from 1998-2006 under former head coach Joe Given.
Speaking of Notre Dame, the Spirits (18-7) won their 13th section title with a five-inning 14-1 CCS Division III victory over Half Moon Bay.
It was the first section title since 2008 and the first for third-year head coach Tom Cardinale. He took the helm after Given retired as the state’s No. 2 winningest coach with 721 career wins.
“Of course it feels good to win my first championship, especially after we got knocked out the last two years by the eventual champion,” Cardinale said.
After losing in last year’s semifinals 10-0 to defending champion Santa Catalina of Monterey, the Spirits beat Santa Catalina 14-2 in this year’s semis.
In the Division II title game, Gilroy (19-12) completed a dream season by following up a 6-3 nine-inning quarterfinal shocker over state-ranked Archbishop Mitty with a 1-0 victory over San Jose Mt. Pleasant that completed the CCS playoff sweep for the Monterey Bay-Gabilan League.
Note: Harold Abend contributed to this report.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports