A five-run first inning and the pitching of Brian Bowles were all Peninsula High needed Thursday to defeat visiting Santa Monica, 7-1, and clinch a tie for its second consecutive Bay League baseball title.
Coach Garry Poe, though, wanted more. After the first inning, the Panthers had only two hits and twice left the bases loaded without scoring.
“That’s what I’m going to talk to them about right now,” Poe said after the game. “We can’t shut down. We can’t turn off offensively.”
If Poe got on his hitters about going into cruise control after the first inning, which was highlighted by Brett Campbell’s two-run homer, he might have only Bowles to blame. The junior right-hander didn’t demand much offensive support, giving up four hits and shutting out Santa Monica until the fifth to improve to 6-1. He struck out six and walked two.
It was the second outstanding pitching effort by a Peninsula starter this week. Tuesday, Arin McCarthy did not give up a hit until the sixth and finished with a three-hitter in a 4-1 victory at Santa Monica.
“Our pitching is good,” said Poe, who has now coached four consecutive league championship teams dating back to Rolling Hills. “We’ve got talented kids and they’re pitching well.”
Peninsula’s two-game sweep this week avenged an 8-5 loss to Santa Monica on March 25 and moved the Panthers (15-5, 9-1 in league) three games ahead of the second-place Vikings (9-11, 5-3) in the Bay standings. Peninsula can win the title outright with a victory in one of its two remaining league games against Inglewood next week, or if Santa Monica loses one of its four remaining league games.
Gauging his team’s improvement since its loss to Santa Monica, Poe said, “We’re better and we played better.”
Defensively, the Panthers couldn’t have been better Thursday, supporting Bowles with an errorless effort. Even when Peninsula appeared to make an error, it turned out well. First baseman Tim Akins booted a grounder in the third, but the ball rolled to second baseman Mike Phippen, who threw back to Akins in time for the out. In the fifth, a dropped fly ball in right field turned into a forceout at second base.
It was that kind of day for Peninsula, and just the opposite for Santa Monica. The Vikings, who gave up four unearned runs Tuesday, committed four errors and gave up five unearned runs.
After Campbell’s two-run homer to left-center field gave Peninsula a 2-0 lead in the first, the Panthers scored three more runs with the help of an error. With two outs and runners on first and second, Jeff Brown hit a slow grounder that second baseman Miguel Moreno fielded on the run and threw into the Santa Monica dugout, allowing Masaki Shimoda to score. Pat Hubbard then singled up the middle to score Chris Blandford and Brown, making it 5-0.
Peninsula added two runs in the sixth, again with the help of an error. Akins opened the inning by hitting a fly ball that center fielder Josh Casillas dropped on the run. Two outs later, a hit batter and a wild pitch set up Shimoda’s two-run single up the middle.
Shimoda, who cleanly handled five ground balls at shortstop, and Campbell, a Loyola Marymount recruit, each had two hits to account for two-thirds of Peninsula’s six hits.