Bellarmine of San Jose pitcher Derrick Turner gives up one hit on a fly ball that should have been caught, but the Bells come up short in their attempt to win a third straight Boras Classic Northern California title. League rival Archbishop Mitty collected the 2-0 victory and will now face JSerra of San Juan Capistrano for the Boras Classic state final.
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You never know what you’re going to get when two of the top teams from the West Catholic Athletic League play each other, but odds are good that it’s going to be hard to believe.
The WCAL, regarded as the toughest prep baseball league in Northern California for many years and arguably the all-time best prep baseball league in the nation, flexed its muscles yet again when league rivals Archbishop Mitty of San Jose and Bellarmine Prep of San Jose advanced to the title game of the 16-team Boras Baseball Classic for Northern California that was played on Thursday night at McAuliffe Field (located across the street from Sacramento State University).
Bellarmine not only was the defending champion of the Boras Classic state title (the Bells topped JSerra of San Juan Capistrano in last year’s final), but also was going for its third straight NorCal crown. The last time Mitty was in the NorCal portion of the event, four years ago, the team lost its first two games, lost again in its third game and didn’t even play a fourth.
This latest wild-and-wacky WCAL encounter saw the Monarchs earn a 2-0 triumph even though they only managed one hit in six innings and even though that one hit should have been a fly ball out.
With the win, Mitty (17-6) earned reservations for a plane trip and a hotel stay in San Diego where it will go to play in the Boras Classic state championship on Saturday, April 27. The team will play JSerra at the University of San Diego. The Monarchs have been ranked as high as No. 11 in the state but most recently had to fall down from the State Top 25 bubble in favor of league rival Serra of San Mateo. They won in their semifinal contest on Wednesday 10-0 vs. St. Mary’s of Stockton and earlier topped Davis (4-2) and Pleasant Valley of Chico (10-3).
The Bells, who reached the Boras Classic regional final with an earlier win (4-3) over Serra and also had wins against Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa (7-0) and Granite Bay (3-2 in Wednesday’s semifinals), dropped to 11-9 overall.
In the first three innings facing Bellarmine senior Derrick Turner, Mitty had two runners that were thrown out on the basepaths. In the fourth, after two outs, Nick Yorke walked and then the next batter, Connor Leaverton, hit a fly ball to left field. Just as the fielder was getting prepared to catch the ball, however, his feet came out from under him. The ball squirted away and with Yorke on the move with two outs he was able to race around the bases to score the first run of the game. Some in the crowd thought it might have been an error, but normally when a fielder slips it’s ruled a hit. The scorer in the press box confirmed it was a double for Leaverton.
Mitty went quietly in the fifth inning and then in the sixth scored its second run without getting a hit. That sequence began when senior outfielder Jonah Advincula reached on an error. Later, Advincula stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a wild pitch.
Making it more hard to handle for the Bells is that they loaded the bases in the first inning and in the sixth inning and failed to score. And then in the fifth, it seemed as if Garrett Arnold had gotten a game-tying RBI single but Mitty right fielder Jake Barbeau unleashed a strong throw that was caught by junior catcher Andrew Vo, who tagged out Bellarmine’s Matt Pinelli.
Mitty’s own pitching was equally stellar to Turner. Andrew McCann retired Aidan Kelly of the Bells on a fly ball to right with the bases loaded in the first. Then with two outs in the fifth, Mitty head coach Brian Yocke brought in senior Joe Yorke. He had to survive a tough sixth inning that included him striking out two batters. He got the first one with one out and runners at second and third and got the second one with the bases loaded.
“We’ve been on both sides of a game like this,” said Yocke, who is in his fourth season since taking over previous 600-win head coach Bill Hutton. “The big thing we talk about is mistakes. Joe came in mid-count in that inning and did a great job. And Vo caught 28 innings the last few days. He really deserved to be the defensive player of the tournament.”
Turner wasn’t striking out batters, but wasn’t giving up solid contact, either. Ground ball outs and fly ball outs was the story of his outing.
“No, I don’t know if I’ve ever had a game like this,” Turner said. “It’s just a tough game sometimes. I liked how our guys competed. We’ve just go to use this game to work harder and just try to get better so it doesn’t happen like this again.”
“I’m so proud of these guys to win it,” Yocke added. “We know it’s going to be a tough game down there, but we’ve just added another baseball experience we get to share together and that’s the most important thing.”
JSerra is one of the host schools for the Boras Classic and won the 16-team SoCal portion of the event with an 8-1 win on March 29 over La Mirada. The Lions were only 10-8 on the season entering that week, but also beat higher ranked teams Ayala of Chino Hills and Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks in earlier games. Notre Dame began that week with an upset of Orange Lutheran, which came back the following week to win the National High School Invitational tourney in North Carolina and then the week after that swept JSerra in three Trinity League games. The Lancers are currently the No. 1 ranked team in the state and it’s not lost on any of the Mitty players how big it would be to win a statewide tournament with teams like Orange Lutheran that also were in it.
The NorCal field at this year’s Boras Classic was led by state No. 9 Franklin of Elk Grove, which was 12-1 at the start of the week and also has been No. 1 in the Sacramento Bee’s rankings since the beginning of the season. The Wildcats probably will still be No. 1 locally next week at 15-2, but lost in their second game of this week 6-5 to Granite Bay (which doesn’t have a winning record). They won on Thursday in their final game of the week vs. Pleasant Valley of Chico. Granite Bay won in the third-place game on Thursday 6-3 over St. Mary’s of Stockton.