SAN DIEGO SECTION BASEBALL CHAMPIONSHIPS : Santana Conquers Mount Carmel, 7-2
Jim Saska, Santana High School’s first-year baseball coach, expected a couple of calls from former teammates Saturday night.
Saska was to be the bearer of more good news for Santana but bad news for his teammates from 1970.
The Sultans won the San Diego Section 3-A championship Saturday afternoon by defeating Mount Carmel, 7-2. They finished with a 26-2 record, an all-time county best that bettered the mark of 25-3 set by Saska and his teammates 16 years ago.
Saska was the third baseman on Santana’s 1970 championship team. The Sultans featured three pitchers who were drafted by major league teams: left-handers Terry Forster and Kyle Hypes and right-hander Brad McRoberts. Forster is the only one currently in the majors, pitching for the Angels.
“We had two left-handers and one right-hander who threw hard,” Saska said of the 1970 team. “This year, we had two left-handers who threw hard.”
Mike Hook, one of the two hard throwers, was the winning pitcher against Mount Carmel. Hook (12-1) pitched a three-hitter, striking out 13 and allowing one earned run.
Mount Carmel struck early, scoring four in the top of the first. Mark Medford led off by reaching base on an error by shortstop Pete Cowen. Medford stole second, then scored on a one-out single by Jeff Gay.
Dale Henson followed with a single to center, moving Gay to second. Tom Kolinek followed with a fly to deep left-center that was dropped by center fielder Todd Kingery and ruled a three-base error. Gay and Henson scored on the fly ball, and Kolinek came home on a wild relay throw to third base.
“After we scored four in the first, I knew we had it,” Hook said. “Everybody was loose and doing their job. Four runs is a lot, really. It was up to me after that.”
Saska had been confident before the game. He was even more confident after Mount Carmel committed three errors in the first.
“I watched those guys play yesterday (Friday),” Saska said. “I knew if we played our game, there was no way they could hang with us. Defensively, they were a little shaky when I watched them play.”
Santana shook up the Sundevils a little more with two runs in the third. Gay, who was 8 for 11 in the playoffs, hit a one-out double to left. Henson followed with a run-scoring triple to center that took a high hop over Kingery’s head. Kolinek scored Henson with a sacrifice fly to right, providing the Sultans a 6-0 lead.
At that point, the only item in question seemed to be whether Hook would pitch his second no-hitter of the year. He lost the bid in the fifth on Tom Cheek’s two-out double that scored Cowen, who had reached on an error.
The teams traded runs in the sixth but, by then, Mount Carmel’s chances looked bleak. The Sundevils (25-4) had won 20 straight before the championship game.
Sam Blalock, Mount Carmel’s coach, said his team was tense before the game.
“We just didn’t deal with it properly,” he said. “We didn’t use our nervous energy in aggressive ways.”
Mount Carmel had expected to play Bonita Vista in a semifinal game Thursday. But the Sundevils didn’t get to play until Friday because of the protested first-round game involving Bonita Vista and Valhalla, which Bonita Vista won, 3-2. Mount Carmel had the option of waiting until Tuesday to play for the championship.
“I wanted to keep it on schedule for all of the fans,” Blalock said. “I don’t think that (playing Saturday) had any bearing at all. Santana looked relaxed and poised. When you score four runs in the first, I’d be relaxed, too.”
Many of Santana’s players, who had been told that there was a 95% chance that they would be playing the final game Tuesday, attended the school’s senior prom Friday night. When Saska found out otherwise Friday evening, he went to the prom and informed his players of the change. Hook said players went to bed a little earlier because of the news.