In the Bay Area, where Steve Kerr is the coach of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors and a proud Palisades High graduate, there’s probably going to be great interest in the City Section Open Division championship baseball game set for Saturday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
It’s been 37 years since Kerr and Palisades were no-hit by Bret Saberhagen in a 13-0 loss to Reseda Cleveland in the 1982 City final. Now the Dolphins are back in the final, thanks to a pitcher named Lucas Braun, whose father, Ted, is a professor in USC’s film department. The father couldn’t have imagined a better script than the one that unfolded Thursday night at Dedeaux Field.
Braun threw five shutout innings, and Wyatt Loncar got the save in Palisades’ 1-0 semifinal victory over Woodland Hills El Camino Real. Everything bounced Palisades’ way, from a diving catch in center field by Jake Nadley to solid play from shortstop Julian Scissors to a seventh-inning groundball off Loncar’s leg that went straight to third baseman Jared Brecher.
“This is amazing,” said Braun, a 6-foot, 185-pound senior right-hander who has thrown 11 2/3 scoreless innings in two playoff games. He struck out eight, walked four and gave up three hits to improve to 8-0.
Whenever El Camino Real tried to put pressure on Braun, he always found a way to respond. His biggest challenge came in the third inning when he struck out El Camino Real’s No. 4 hitter, Andy Ambriz, with the bases loaded.
“Lucas has guts,” coach Mike Voelkel said. “We just went with our horse.”
Nothing seems to faze Braun. Last week, he threw 6 2/3 shutout innings in Palisades’ 2-0 playoff win against Granada Hills that featured a one-hour “bee delay.” Then there was a “blood delay” for 10 minutes on Thursday while Palisades catcher Julian Jacobson dealt with a cut from his helmet.
“I’m speechless,” Braun said. “We’ve worked all year for this. The history we’re trying to make is part of the legacy we’re trying to leave. I just try to pitch to contact. I get strikeouts here and there. As long as I keep it in the zone, I’m pretty successful. The only time I got into trouble is when I walked a couple or let myself get caught up in the moment. But I just take a couple deep breaths in the back of the mound and settle myself down.”
The game’s only run was driven in by Will Coquillard in the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly with the bases loaded that scored Braun.
Adam Christopher struck out nine and allowed four hits for El Camino Real.
Palisades (26-6) isn’t hiding its secret to success in reaching its first upper division final since 1989.
“It’s our pitching and defense,” Voelkel said. “We just had to find a way to score a run.”
Palisades will play two-time defending champion Lake Balboa Birmingham in the 1 p.m. final. Birmingham defeated Sun Valley Poly 1-0 behind Gavino Rosales, a junior who struck out six and scattered five hits.
Birmingham’s only run came in the fifth inning when Johnny Tincher walked with the bases loaded on a 3-and-2 count. The Patriots had two walks, an error and a hit batter in the inning.
Tincher, Birmingham’s All-City catcher, was the standout defensively. He threw out two runners trying to steal second and picked off another at first base.
“They don’t know about me,” Tincher said.
As for Rosales, he got the game’s final out on a strikeout, his sixth of the game. Poly had the tying run on second after an error. Poly pitcher Elias Galaviz limited Birmingham to an infield single while striking out six.
“What a great pitching performance,” Birmingham coach Matt Mowry said. “Talk about guts and performing on a big stage. And that was one heck of a pitching performance by the Poly pitcher.”
Parity has been shown throughout the playoffs. Of the 10 games, eight were decided by one run.