The up and down thrill ride that has been Christopher High’s season reached its apex in a nail-biting 1-0, 8-inning win over Hillsdale in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs Wednesday. Matt Peters pitched six innings of shutout ball, and Cooper Ahola’s sacrifice-fly with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning propelled the No. 3 seed Cougars (20-8) to a quarterfinal matchup with No. 11 seed St. Ignatius (16-12) on Saturday at Wilcox High in Santa Clara at 11 a.m.
Peters allowed just four hits and struck out eight in six dominant innings, and Brenden Lodge tossed two innings of shutout relief to help seal the outcome. It was another thrilling game in a season filled with them for Christopher, which saw Andrew Kachel start the game-winning sequence by doubling off the wall in left-center with one out. Kachel then stole third base before Jack Tomlinson walked and Zach Griffin was intentionally walked to load the bases for Ahola, who hit a shallow fly ball to right field which allowed the speedy Kachel to score and set off a wild celebration.
“It was pretty nuts,” Cougars coach Ryan Dequin said. “The kids were pretty excited to get it done, and they rushed Cooper. It was a good celebration, but we as coaches had to quickly remind them that if they don’t clean up the game and take care of the baseball and hit like they had been hitting, it’s going to be tough for them to win ball games going forward.”
Pitchers were dominant in this one, as the teams combined for only 11 hits. Both squads had opportunities to score throughout the contest; however, Peters pitched his best when it counted the most, working his way out of a couple of bases-loaded jams. Peters has been an unsung standout for the team this season, especially when Jake Ornellas was shut down around three weeks ago with arm trouble.
That essentially put Peters into being the team’s “go-to guy,” coach Ryan Dequin said, and the senior has delivered. Fellow senior Ahola has also produced in clutch situations, none more important than Wednesday’s game-winning RBI.
“Cooper is one of those guys where sometimes you sit back and wonder how did he get a bat on that ball,” Dequin said. “But he is so strong he can hit bad pitches. You can count on him in situations to handle the bat just like he did for us today.”
Gilroy opened up defense of its CCS Division I championship with an impressive 7-0 win over Los Altos on Wednesday in the opening round of the Division I playoffs. The No. 6 seed Mustangs (14-11) play the winner of Friday’s Aragon-Alvarez game in a quarterfinal matchup on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Salinas Sports Complex. Mustangs coach Bria DeLorenzo was pleased in how the team started the game strong and never let up.
Gilroy scored four runs in the second inning to essentially seal the outcome. Savanah Castro started the mini uprising with a walk before the team produced four consecutive run-scoring hits, courtesy of doubles from Hannah Hoeptner, Annabelle Gutierrez, Lauryn Yslava and a single from Abby Clark. Yslava added a home run while Gutierrez and Gianna Vanni hit two doubles each. Hoeptner also had two hits, and she’s played an integral role as the team’s No. 9 hitter.
“Hannah has been solid in that spot for us,” DeLorenzo said. “She makes it really tough on opponents and has done an outstanding job turning over the lineup from the nine spot.”
Sophomore Sabrina Lopez pitched a complete-game, three-hitter, finishing with four strikeouts. DeLorenzo said Lopez looked strong in practice all week and wasn’t surprised with Lopez’s performance. The Mustangs had a somewhat uneventful regular season, finishing 6-6 in Pacific Coast League Gabilan Division play. However, they’re confident they have what it takes to put everything together to make a strong run to repeat as CCS playoff champions. Wednesday was a nice step in that direction.