Saturday was a declaration day for all three San Mateo public school baseball programs.
Three teams – Aragon, Hillsdale and San Mateo – have each scored shutout wins in non-league action. The Aragon Dons outscored Mills 5-0; the Hillsdale Knights rallied late to defeat Washington-SF 8-0; and the San Mateo Bearcats went deep for a 10-0 win over Design Tech.
San Mateo’s three Peninsula Athletic League teams have flexed their arms in nonleague games. But with the PAL league schedule in full swing this week, will those arms hold up? And, perhaps more importantly, will their respective defenses help them?
“We’re 6-1 and we’ve had five games going well,” said Aragon manager Lenny Souza. “We think we have a good pitcher, and if we play (defending) behind, we’ll be in all those games.”
The Dons have indeed been dominant on the mound. Led by power arm Pat Mori and finesse arm Ashton Moniz-Witten, Aragon posted a team ERA of 2.80. Hillsdale was even more efficient, posting a 2.13 ERA as a team. San Mateo was the best with a stellar 1.06 ERA squad, allowing just 17 total points in eight games.
However, Souza and first-year Hillsdale manager Ed Serrata have both expressed concerns about their defensive lapses.
The Knights committed 17 errors in 10 games, for a respectable .938 save percentage. Still, the timing of those mistakes was costly, especially in a March 8 non-league game with San Mateo’s other team, the Serra Padres, in which a Hillsdale error in the third inning opened the door to a two-stage Serra rally. The Padres picked up a 3-0 win.
“What we absolutely didn’t expect (this season) is to kick the ball so much,” Serrata said.
Hillsdale Emerging Pitch Depth
Hillsdale’s starting rotation is led by senior Chris Kelly and junior Nick Strezo. Kelly is 2-1 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts. Strezo is 1-1 with a 2.17 ERA in three starts.
But the depth of the pitch was a pleasant surprise for Serrata, who saw a pitcher like senior Andrew Murray emerge as a dominant option. In four appearances, Murray is 2-0 and has yet to give up an earned run this season. And senior Blake Stevens threw six shutout frames in Saturday’s shutout win, with senior Jake Ratcliffe closing it with a scoreless seventh.
Serrata said the Knights have auditioned numerous pitchers in nonleague games, and each of them has pleaded to win innings in the PAL Bay Division this season.
“We think we’re going to be able to use them (all),” Serrata said. “Everyone who came out had a chance and kind of stayed in the race.”
Hillsdale opened the Bay Division game early, splitting a two-game series with King’s Academy. The Knights host Burlingame on Wednesday at 4 p.m., and Serrata — Hillsdale’s co-manager, along with William Baroncini — is counting on junior receiver Blake Cowans to control the Panthers’ running game.
Cowans’ arm has been a weapon this season, Serrata said. But Burlingame have stolen 33 goals from 38 attempts in eight games so far.
“It’s just respect,” Serrata said. “You see him pitching and the teams don’t want to run. … Burlingame will certainly run.
Mateo Left Front Rotation
San Mateo is the only one of the city’s three public schools not to play in the Bay Division. The Bearcats open PAL Ocean play Tuesday at Woodside and ride high after juniors Victor Angulo and Myles Guerrero combined for a two-hit shutout Saturday. Angulo earned his first college victory, working four innings while facing just one batter over the minimum and striking out eight. Guerrero came in midway through a 9-0 San Mateo lead but got the regulation stoppage with three innings of work, striking out seven.
Senior southpaw Austin Lachapelle has been the workhorse of the rotation, going 1-1 with a 1.47 ERA in five appearances. The southpaw showed a wild streak, delivering 17 walks and six batters hit, but cruised with 32 strikeouts in 19 innings of work.
“Our throws have been great,” San Mateo manager Neal Goldstein said. “Our No. 1 is Austin Lachapelle, and I’ll let him play the whole game if he has any shots left.”
Left-hander Angulo and right-hander Evan Soller were both off-season acquisitions. The two juniors both attended Serra last year but transferred to San Mateo. Because neither of them played baseball at Serra last season, they didn’t have to sit out due to Central Coast Section transfer rules earlier this year.
And the Bearcats have even more backup arms on the way. Chad Hawkins — a senior who played as San Mateo’s starting third baseman — is currently on the shelf as a pitcher after working three relief innings early in the season. Goldstein said he expects Hawkins to return to the mound in the near term.
“I feel good,” Goldstein said of San Mateo’s chances in the PAL Ocean race. “I think we can fight. We have the right pitch.
Aragon picks up where he left off
The Dons are technically in first place in the PAL Bay Division. After starting the league season with an early two-game sweep of TKA, Aragon is the first team to win two games at PAL Bay this year. The Dons have now won six consecutive league games since last season, when they rode a late streak to claim second place in the Bay.
“It was just the culmination of three years,” Souza said. “They are without doubt the best team I have coached at Aragon. Everything fell into place at the right time.”
This year’s team faces a lot of turnover, but the results are still there. Especially pitching results.
Mori improved to 2-1 on Saturday with six shutout innings against Mills, allowing just three hits while striking out seven. Moniz-Witten leads the Staff with a 3-0 record and a 1 ERA, 42 in 24 2/3 innings.
“I feel like we have two guys that we could deploy there who could be aces in the personnel of other teams,” Souza said.
With PAL Bay’s schedule in full swing this week, Aragon resumes the league game on Wednesday at Carlmont. The Scots are in the hunt for a league title and are currently level with Aragon on six wins in total. Capuchino — who opens the Bay Division Wednesday in Sequoia — holds the Bay’s best overall record at 9-2.
“Even though we have two league games under our belt, I feel like we are still trying to figure out what we are capable of,” Souza said. “Seven games doesn’t seem like a lot.”
The Dons are looking forward to their second Championship series from April 4-8 against Burlingame. Last season, on home turf, Aragon was knocked out of the CCS Division III tournament in the semi-finals by the Panthers, who went on to win the CCS crown. Aragon led the game 2-0 heading into the fifth before Burlingame broke out for a six-point rally en route to an 8-2 win.
But Souza offered no projections on how the Bay Division is shaping up this season.
“I feel like the Bay Championships are happening, you don’t plan them,” Souza said.