With Saturday’s Central Coast Section Division I baseball quarterfinal game tied at 2 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Los Altos High made a pitching change that may have sealed rival Mountain View’s fate.
Coach Gabe Stewart replaced starter Max Higareda with ace Alex Reelfs, who kept the second-seeded Spartans in check the rest of the way in a game the No. 7 Eagles won 4-2 at Fremont High.
“I think both pitchers pitched wonderfully,” said Stewart, whose team is scheduled to face No. 11 Wilcox 4 p.m. Thursday in the semifinal at San Jose Municipal Stadium. “I think Max did exactly the job. But when you’re in the playoffs, there’s no tomorrow. And if you’re (going) to go down, you’re going to go down with your best option – and Alex, in any situation, is our best option.”
Stewart made the change after Higareda ran into some trouble in the bottom of the fourth, which began with Los Altos leading 2-1. He hit Mountain View’s Jacob Orlov on the back and soon surrendered a single to pinch-hitter Anan Subramanyan that brought Orlov home. Enter Reelfs, who promptly retired the next batter to end the inning.
The 6-foot-5 junior was just getting started. Reelfs’ splitter stymied the Spartans; he retired 10 out of the 12 he faced, striking out three. Only Bryan Rau got a hit off him.
“My splitter, it looks like a fastball, but it dies,” said Reelfs, making his first appearance in relief all season. “It could be really hard to hit if it’s on.”
Reelfs had his own back when it was his turn to bat. In the top of the fifth, he hit an RBI double on a popup that Mountain View’s left fielder had trouble tracking down. That brought home Ryan Buchner, who was already on first base, to give the Eagles a 3-2 lead.
The next batter, Colin Homan, hit a grounder to third baseman Matthew Zepeda, who threw the ball wide to first baseman Orlov. With Homan safe at first and Andrew Cho at third (as a pinch-runner for Reelfs), Keenan Hanley hit a sacrifice fly that scored Cho.
The Spartans didn’t surrender another run, but the Eagles’ 4-2 lead was more than enough with Reelfs on the mound.
Los Altos (19-11-1) got its first run of the game in the first inning. Buchner – who got on base with a single and moved to third on Homan’s base hit – scored when Rau’s fastball went past Cullen Blanchfield. Buchner scored again in the third when Taylor Musick belted a double down the line that barely stayed fair.
Mountain View (20-12-1) cut its deficit in half in the bottom of the third but missed out on a chance to tie the game. The Spartans got off to a promising start, with Tristan Silveira and Rau hitting singles. As Rau attempted to steal second, Silveira raced home from third, but Los Altos second baseman Aidan Kelleher threw the ball back to catcher Hanley in time to tag him out.
“That’s a lot of hard work over the entire season coming up on one play,” Stewart said.
Rau, safe at second, soon scored on a single by Blanchfield that made it 2-1.
Saturday’s victory enabled the Eagles to get some revenge on the Spartans, who beat them twice in league – once in extra innings.
“A few different plays go our way and we’re right in the game,” Mountain View coach Kris Mims said. “We only lost 4-2, but we couldn’t make plays we needed to.”
Added Rau: “(There were) a few calls by the umps that didn’t go our way. We played hard, we played well, and that’s all you can ask for, right?”
This marked the first time Mountain View and Los Altos have met in the CCS playoffs.