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September 25, 2021

Mustang tough: Gilroy baseball team makes history with CCS victory

Jacob Godwin knew he and the Gilroy High baseball team had just accomplished something historic against Pacific Grove on Saturday. Godwin had a home run, triple and three RBIs to help lead the Mustangs to a 5-4 win in 10 innings to earn the first Central Coast Section championship in program history. 

“It was pretty cool,” Godwin said. “It’s a great win for the team and especially the seniors. We’re glad we won it for them. It was an intense game just going back and forth.”

Gilroy High baseball assistant coach Matt Hemeon admitted to getting teary-eyed after Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division V championship game. After all, Hemeon, a 2007 Gilroy High graduate, was on a team that lost to Valley Christian in the semifinals during his senior year. Hemeon understood better than anyone the magnitude of the moment. 

“We are excited for the future of this program, but for now we’re living in this moment as the first CCS champs in school history, which sounds pretty darn good,” said Hemeon, who was serving as the head coach in place of Dennis Castro. “I’m so proud of this group of guys. From the beginning of the season, coach Castro and I preached about doing things together. And for this game, that’s exactly what it took—being together. It wasn’t a perfect game. It had its ups and downs, but through the whole thing, we stuck together and had each other’s backs. And because of that, we came out on top.”

The No. 8 seed Mustangs entered the Division V playoffs with a 2-7 record, but peaked at the perfect time. In a game that had as many twists and turns as a Stephen King novel, Gilroy prevailed by making a couple of more plays than its opponent—a recurring theme during their postseason march. 

The Mustangs, who never trailed, led 4-3 entering the bottom of the seventh inning only to see Pacific Grove tie things up to force extra innings. The teams went scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings before Gilroy struck for a run in the 10th. Godwin hit a leadoff triple off the outfield wall and scored standing up on Jacob Parks’ sacrifice-fly. 

“It was crazy,” Godwin said. “Everyone was hyped and there was a different vibe with our team.”

Gilroy scored two runs in the second and two in the third before its game-winner in the 10th. It was feast or famine for the Mustangs, who finished with nine hits and managed to win despite striking out a whopping 17 times and stranding 18 runners on base. Godwin hit a solo home run in the second inning and had a two-run single in the third inning. He finished with a game-high three hits and three RBIs. 

“Jacob Godwin had a huge game,” Hemeon said. “His play this year has been phenomenal. He’s a guy at the beginning of the year we’re thinking of catching, but we move him to center field and he has been by far our best defensive player this year. Today, his bat was what won the game for us. He’s an unreal baseball player and an even better person.”

Hemeon was effusive in his praise for both of his pitchers and their dual ability to make an impact at the plate. Quinn Larson started and went 4 ⅓ innings, allowing four hits and three runs while striking out six. Aaron Valdez tossed the final 5 ⅔ innings, allowing four hits and just one run while also making an impact in the lineup. He drew three walks and had four quality at-bats. Larson also had an RBI double and Owen Straub had the team’s other extra-base hit. 

“Quinn and Aaron threw some stellar innings,” Hemeon said. “Aaron came on in relief and shut them down completely in an incredibly gutsy performance. A huge, clutch performance from him. And I can’t say enough about Quinn who hasn’t gotten a lot of opportunities to pitch this season, but he was exceptional today.”

Three days after coming off a close win over the King’s Academy in the semifinals, the Mustangs were involved in a downright suspenseful, nail-biting contest with Pacific Grove. 

“I’ve been coaching for a while, but my heart was racing those last couple of innings,” Hemeon said. 

Said Godwin: “We were in a slump after the early part of the season, but came alive in CCS at the right time and played great baseball.”

Nine days after the Gilroy softball team won a CCS title as a No. 8 seed, the baseball team did the same. In the process, they forever etched themselves in school history. 

“This is something this team will forever be known for, as the one to win the first baseball CCS championship,” Hemeon said.

The Gilroy High players give assistant coach Matt Hemeon the water bucket bath in celebrating a CCS title win. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Ryan Villanueva looks to make a circus catch during Saturday’s title contest. Photo by Bryant Hammer.
Emanuel Lee
Sports Editor of the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. PR of 3:13.40 at the 2019 CIM. Hebrews 12:1.

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