Falcons cap 26-4 baseball season by winning CIF North Coast Section Division I title and avenge one of losses with 5-2 win against De La Salle of Concord. Can they move up from No. 3 to No. 1 in final state rankings?
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High school baseball coaches never like to see the possible winning run coming up to bat in the bottom of the seventh inning, but College Park of Pleasant Hill’s Andy Tarpley didn’t seem too worried because he had senior Joe DeMers pitching.
DeMers, facing the bases loaded with one out and his team leading by three runs, struck out the next two batters to finish off a 5-2 victory by the Falcons against De La Salle of Concord in Saturday’s CIF North Coast Section Division I championship game at St. Mary’s College in Moraga.
With the win, College Park (26-4) earned its second straight section crown after taking the NCS D2 title last year. The Falcons, who were preseason No. 1 overall in the state, also can now perhaps go from No. 3 to No. 1 in next week’s final Cal-Hi Sports State Top 20 and could be in line to be State Team of the Year.
Last week’s No. 1 team, San Dimas, dropped its first game of the season in the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinals earlier this week. And while last week’s No. 2 team, St. Francis of Mountain View, is in the clubhouse with a CIF Central Coast Section Open Division crown, College Park happens to own a head-to-head win over the Lancers.
“Yes, we did win the most important one,” Tarpley said, referring to runner-up finishes at both the National High School Invitational in North Carolina and the Elite 8 Classic at St. Francis but winning the section title. “We knew we were going up from D2 to D1 this year and tried to get the toughest schedule possible. That definitely was the plan.
“Then to win the NCS against a team like De La Salle was just gigantic for this group. It’s wasn’t just Joe and Nick (Oar) and Trevor (Larnach). Other guys throughout the lineup stepped up. This was a very versatile group.”
De La Salle came into the game as the defending champion and was the top seed, based on a head-to-head win over College Park last month in a much-hyped game played at Cal.
In that game, the Spartans (19-9) prevailed 3-0 behind its ace pitcher Justin Hooper. The possible first or second round MLB draft pick (the opening round is Monday night), however, was not used in this matchup. DeMers didn’t start for College Park, but came on in the second inning after the Spartans had taken a 1-0 lead in the first.
De La Salle plated its run off sophomore Ian MacIver on a RBI single by senior first baseman Blake Ogburn. Two solid defensive plays, however, by Falcons’ shortstop Hank DaRe prevented further damage.
DeMers, who has signed a letter of intent with Washington but also is looking forward to next week’s draft, then came on the second and got two strikeouts and a soft grounder.
In top of the third, College Park sent 10 batters to the plate and scored four times to take control of the game. Cal-bound Jeff Mitchell doubled to drive in the tying run, then DeMers hit a grounder for an RBI. Oar then delivered with a double to right for an RBI while the final run came home on an RBI single by DaRe.
College Park added a fifth run in the top of the fourth inning when DeMers drove a ball into the right-centerfield gap that scored Larnach, who had walked with two outs and the bases empty following a double play.
De La Salle didn’t threaten until the bottom of the sixth. Ogburn led off with a double, then Andrew Schatz singled for 1st and 3rd with no outs. A run did come in on a fielder’s choice grounder by Myles Coston, but DeMers then got another ground ball for an out and struck out Armani Smith to end the rally.
Connor Redmond, who started on the mound for the Spartans, was hit by a pitch to lead off the seventh. After an out, Kevin Sandri’s infield hit and a walk to Michael Reuling loaded the bases. That’s when DeMers bore down and struck out Ogburn and Schatz (both swinging) to end the game.
“It was just a great way to end it,” said DeMers, who finished with 10 strikeouts. “They put some good swings on the ball in the last inning, but those last two outs we just got it done.
“This is the best team and this is the best group of brothers ever.”
Tarpley did visit the mound once during the seventh, but marveled at DeMers’ ability to perform in the clutch.
“His determination in those situations is just special,” he said. “He has the ability to take a team on its shoulders, but he’s always the same. He even had a big hit today helping out on offense.”
De La Salle, which also had a win over St. Francis of Mountain View this season and also had a win over CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champ Elk Grove, just wasn’t able to match College Park’s pitching depth in this game.
And while we’re at it, it may prove to be too much for any other California team to match the final resume of the Falcons this year, either.