It ended up not being quite so simple as watching the CIF North Coast Section Division I baseball and softball championship games on the same day, but it was simple in how both De La Salle of Concord and Amador Valley of Pleasanton earned titles. Both were shutouts and both saw seniors hit impressive home runs.
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Seniors Nick Cirelli of the De La Salle (Concord) baseball team and Danielle Williams of the Amador Valley (Pleasanton) softball team know a thing or two about clinching major section championships.
Cirelli was a pitcher on the mound when the Spartans won the 2017 CIF North Coast Section Division I crown and ended the 2018 title game on Saturday at St. Mary’s College in Moraga by hitting a home run in the bottom of the sixth inning that clinched a mercy-rule win.
Williams was a freshman pitching ace when the Dons won the 2014 NCS D1 title and capped her prep career as a senior on Saturday at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill with a shutout win plus a homer.
Both games were witnessed by Cal-Hi Sports since the softball game began at 12 noon while the baseball game had a 3:30 p.m. start time. That move also made it possible for Alameda Newspaper Group writer Mike Lefkow to do the double-dip and of course any Foothill of Pleasanton fans since their school was involved in both games.
De La Salle Three-Peats In Baseball
Entering the NCS D1 baseball final on Saturday at St. Mary’s College, the players and coaches at De La Salle knew that already having three wins over the team they were playing can be quite difficult.
But the baseball players hit the field with that same mental sharpness and intensity made famous for more than 40 years on the football field and the Spartans came through with an 11-0 victory over Foothill of Pleasanton to win their third straight NCS banner and 11th in school history.
With the win, DLS also capped a season in which it finished 28-4. That’s comparable to some of the records that some of the best teams in school history have had. The Spartans were No. 4 in last week’s State Top 20, but neither the No. 2 and No. 3 teams (Easlake of Chula Vista and Orange Lutheran) were able to win section titles.
“We talked about how it is to play a team like this that we’ve beaten three times,” said De La Salle head coach David Jeans, who took over the program in 2011. “But we’ve faced a lot of No. 1 pitchers this year and we weren’t going to back down.”
Foothill, which came into the day at 23-5 and was No. 8 in the most recent state rankings, had its No. 1 pitcher set up to throw on Saturday, but the Spartans got to Vanderbilt-bound Brett Hansen in the bottom of the first inning. An error, single and walk loaded the bases, which set up Blake Burke to smash a deep sacrifice fly to left-center and then there was an RBI double by Austin Elder.
With De La Salle starter Ryan Costeiu keeping the Falcons in check, the lead grew to 4-0 in the bottom of the third. Elder got the rally going with two outs with his second double of the game. That was followed by a hit batter, then an RBI single by Jack Powers and then a ground ball into the third base-shortstop hole by Jared Amigh that got through for another run.
Cirelli led off the fourth inning with what would prove to be his first homer of two he would hit on the day, but a double play limited further damage.
The mercy rule, which is applied whenever a team gains a 10-run lead, began to come into focus in the bottom of the fifth as the Spartans added on again to make it 8-0. Trace Tammaro knocked in two of those runs on a double while pinch-hitter John Deitchman had the other RBI.
With two runners on and two outs in the sixth, Cirelli came up and hit another shot to right field. The ball hit just above a yellow line on the fence, the umpire signaled it was a home run and as soon as the 10th run scored the game was over.
“If we had made a few plays early, it might’ve been different,” said Foothill head coach Angelo Scavone. “You can’t make mistakes against a team like that. They took advantage and put the hurt on us. Still it was one of the best teams in Foothill history. We just didn’t get it done against De La Salle.”
Costeiu finished with five shutout innings on the mound for De La Salle. Jeans inserted hard-throwing sophomore lefty Kyle Harrison for what proved to be Foothill’s final half-inning.
“We still came in feeling like underdogs,” said Cirelli, who will room with Costeiu in the fall when both are going to Sacramento City College (one of the top JC programs in California). “We knew what was coming for us with their pitcher. But our offense have been playing really well in the last few weeks.”
Amador Valley Not To Be “D” Nied
For most of the season, even though it wasn’t reflected in the seedings for the NCS D1 playoffs, it’s been the consensus among most who follow Bay Area and NorCal softball that the top two pitchers and top two teams were Amador Valley and Foothill, both of Pleasanton.
Those two did indeed meet on Saturday at Diablo Valley College and in the early innings it was a whiffathon between the Dons’ Danielle Williams and the Falcons’ Nicole May. But the senior got the best of the sophomore this time as Williams led Amador Valley to a 2-0 triumph.
May, who is committed to Oklahoma, actually gave up fewer hits than Williams (three to four) and had the same number of strikeouts (11). But the difference is what happened when the duo faced each other as batters.
After the first three innings, in which Williams had six strikeouts and May had five, the score stood at 0-0 when Williams came up to bat in the top of the fourth inning. After getting a double in her first at-bat facing May, Williams launched drive over the left centerfield fence and Amador Valley had a 1-0 lead.
“She’s such a great pitcher that there aren’t many pitches to swing at that are close (to the middle of the plate,” said Williams, who will play next at Northwestern. “That one was so I just went for it.”
Foothill had a golden opportunity to tie the score in the bottom of the fourth after a leadoff walk to Lauren Hermes. Pinch-runner Emma Chandler was moved to second on a sacrifice but she was thrown out at third by Dons’ catcher Allison Kim when trying to advance on a pitch that dribbled away from Kim.
The Falcons also put the pressure on in the bottom of the sixth. A walk and an error put two runners on and they were at second and third, but with two outs Williams bore down and struck out Alejandra McElroy to end the threat.
Amador Valley added to its lead in the top of the seventh. Williams walked and Mia Hildebrand got a single to left with no outs. Courtesy runner Hannah Kramer then scored on an error. Foothill limited the damage with an out at the plate and May getting a strikeout.
In the bottom of the seventh, Pittsburgh-bound Hope Alley had a two-out infield single for Foothill, but Williams struck out Hailey Hayes to end the game.
“I’m just really happy,” said Williams when asked about having her own four-year run at Amador Valley right on the heels of a four-year run by Johanna Grauer (now at UCLA). “It’s so amazing. I feel like the whole school has been behind me.”
Amador Valley head coach Teresa Borchard had her arm in a sling while coaching the game after being hospitalized earlier in the week from a motorcycle accident. She was in the accident on Tuesday, but was released from the hospital the next day in time to be with her team in the semifinals.
“It’s not easy (playing a team like Foothill four times),” said Borchard, who has now won three NCS titles since she took over the program in 2012 from previous head coach Julie Marshall. “Both of the coaches use lots of adjustments. I just told them this time (Foothill won 8-0 the last time these two teams played) to be a lot more aggressive.
“And D (Williams) was just dialed in. That one bad loss lit her up. All of the girls felt that as well.”
Foothill head coach Matt Sweeney lamented that one decision he had to send the runner from second base in the fourth inning, but gave credit to the Dons.
“I really felt we had our chances, but we just couldn’t get that two-out hit,” he said. “But Danielle was just not going to be denied in her going-out game.”
A Note About Alameda Baseball
After collecting all of the interviews and photos from the Amador Valley-Foothill softball game, the plan was to walk to the car and head to a local eatery for lunch in between going to the De La Salle-Foothill baseball game.
On the way to the car, however, we ran into Alameda baseball head coach Ken Arnerich, who was arriving for his team’s 3:30 p.m. game at DVC for the NCS D2 title against Maria Carrillo of Santa Rosa. Arnerich gave us some info about his junior pitcher, Max Nyrop, that he believed Nyrop was on a current 55-inning scoreless streak. We couldn’t check anything out at that point, but went to lunch, and realized that we needed to go back to DVC to find out if Max had any innings left he could pitch. The state record of 59 scoreless innings in a row goes back to 1967 and was recently threatened by San Diego Torrey Pines’ Joe Magrisi.
It turns out that Nyrop couldn’t pitch, but if his total is confirmed, the streak would still be going next season when he comes back to Alameda as a senior. He could break the state record in his first game.
We were still committed to going to the NCS D1 final at St. Mary’s. All of the extra running around back at DVC ended up only costing us from watching the top of the first inning.
Back at DVC, Alameda ended up beating Maria Carrillo in its game 4-3. The Hornets also wrapped up a strong 27-2-1 season and got more good news after the game when they learned that state D2 No. 1 Beckman of Irvine had lost in the CIF Southern Section D2 final. That means that the previous No. 2 Hornets will be No. 1 when those final state rankings are done.