Dragons nail Novato with 5-run 6th, reach NCS semi behind Hernandez’s 5-hitter
Junior Sam Morgan (right) scores after hitting a clutch two-RBI single during the fourth-seeded Dragons’ NCS quarterfinal victory over 12th-seeded Novato Friday night at Arnold Field.
The postseason isn’t easy. But you don’t have tell that to the fourth-seeded Sonoma Valley High School varsity baseball boys after two nail-biting North Coast Section Division 3 playoff games.
On the heels of last Tuesday’s rally from a 2-0 deficit to win their NCS playoffs-opener at 13th-seeded Eureka – decided by senior Steven McGunagle’s fifth-inning wild-pitch score from third and senior Sam Alton’s 10-strikeout mound effort – the Dragons and visiting 12th-seeded Novato were scoreless after five innings Friday night.
When junior starting pitcher Michael Hernandez blanked the Hornets for a sixth-straight inning, Sonoma finally broke through with one out in the bottom of the sixth as eight-straight batters generated a five-run scoring surge that thrilled the Arnold Field home crowd and resulted in a 5-0 NCS quarterfinal victory.
With the win, the young Dragons – who started only two seniors and had one freshman in the line-up – reached the NCS Division-3 final-four and will face either top-seeded San Marin or ninth-seeded Moreau Catholic, who had their Saturday quarterfinal game rained out and will play tonight.
Sonoma and the winner of the San Marin-Moreau Catholic tilt will battle in a semifinal match-up tomorrow, Wednesday, June 1, at an undetermined location and time, which could be back at Arnold Field. Check Wednesday’s (June 1), Index-Tribune website at sonomanews.com for the Dragons’ NCS semifinal matchup.
In their five-run bottom-of-the-sixth outburst, junior Will Rose provided the initial spark for the Sonoma boys by singling to centerfield, and senior Kevin Deely and sophomore Jonah Son both walked to load the bases.
Then, with junior cleanup-hitter Sam Morgan at the plate, another wild pitch, like in the Eureka game, opened the door for the Dragons and Rose crossed the plate with what would be the winning run.
But Sonoma wanted insurance runs and Morgan wasted no time in delivering by ripping a two-RBI single to left-field that chased home Deely and Son with the second and third runs, and sophomore Brennan Cole followed by lasering a double to the left-centerfield fence to put two more runners into scoring position.
Sonoma head coach Don Lyons then surprised the Hornets by calling a suicide-squeeze play that junior Chris Swanson worked to perfection by laying down a bunt RBI single that plated the on-rushing Morgan for the fourth run.
Then junior Chandler Kelley took his turn on the production line by collecting an RBI off a fielder’s choice ground-ball force-out which enabled Cole cap the scoring.
Leading the Dragons were winning pitcher Hernandez’s efficient five-hit shutout effort with four strikeouts and two walks; Morgan’s two singles, two RBIs and run scored; Swanson’s two singles and RBI; Cole’s double and run; Rose’s and Kevin Deely’s single and run each; frosh Dan Deely’s single; Kelley’s RBI; and Son’s run.
Rounding out Sonoma’s varsity baseball boys’ postseason playoffs team – directed by Lyons and assistant coaches Mario Alioto, Jody Ray, Joe Schiebold and Dave Studdert – are seniors Sean Daly and Alec Berthoud; and juniors Colin Clyde, Sam Keechler, Ryan Matteo and Will Murphy.
In an interesting side-note, the Dragons have beaten both Eureka and Novato twice – once in the regular season and once in the NCS playoffs – by identical 3-2 and 5-0 final scores, respectively, and they also recently nipped top-seeded San Marin with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning after being no-hit through six.