De La Salle resists Pittsburgh to reach the final
CONCORD — What looked like a quick and comfortable playoff victory for De La Salle on Tuesday turned out to be anything but quick and comfortable.
The top-seeded Spartans led by 10 runs after four innings.
They were three out of victory by the rule of grace when Pittsburg showed why they reached the North Coast Section’s Division I semifinals as the No. 12 seed.
The pirates just kept fighting.
They scored two goals in the top of the fifth to extend the game. They added two more in the sixth, three in the seventh and were one batter away from sending the tying run home when a called third strike propelled the home side to the championship game.
Final: De La Salle 12, Pittsburgh 9.
“We were a little too comfortable,” said DLS left fielder Kai Smith. “But it’s baseball. It happens. We will definitely resume training. We are now left with two additional practices. We take a look back at everything that went wrong today. We are going to be much better for the NCS Championship.
The Spartans extended their NCS playoff winning streak to 23 games since 2016 as they advanced to face third-seeded Clayton Valley Charter in Friday’s final at Diablo Valley College. De La Salle (23-5) is aiming for his sixth straight Division I title.
Pittsburgh finished 20-10.
The first innings on Tuesday belonged to De La Salle.
After an error led to a Pittsburgh run at the top of the first, Smith answered for De La Salle in the home half of the period with a three-run homer left.
The Spartans had just warmed up. They sent 13 batters to the plate in the second inning, seven scored and their lead widened to 10-1.
Smith Chandler had the big hit in the inning, throwing a triple to the center to drive in three.
When De La Salle scored two more points in the fourth, Pittsburg trailed 12-2.
But there would be no leniency rule result.
“It’s kind of what I told you before, just gritty until the end,” Pittsburgh coach Marco Cartagena, a former De La Salle veteran, said. “We played with stage fright at first. We were able to settle down a bit. Our elders led the way. That’s kind of what we do. We used pitchers and that’s what we ended up doing.
Trailing 12-6 after the sixth, the Pirates didn’t just play the full seven innings. They charged the bases with no one on the outside, then got a sinking flyball from Cole Leschak that looked destined to drop into the shallow right center until right fielder Tanner Griffith charged in to make a diving catch.
A point scored from third on the play, but it could have been worse for De La Salle, given what followed.
After a pop-up at first for the second out, Aaron Del Real smashed a triple down the middle to bring in two more runs, cutting the deficit to 12-9.
Pittsburg only needed one more baserunner to create the tying run.
“It crossed my mind,” Cartagena said. “It was great to get to this point and have a chance after the way it started. With a champion team like it did and like it was last year, you have to punch it in the face from the start. You can’t give them races, and that’s kind of what we did.
RJ Meyn, the fifth pitcher sent by De La Salle to the mound, took advantage of his opportunity. He retired the only batter he faced to end the three-hour game.
Now the Spartans are off to the final.
“We are learning, this group is still learning,” DLS coach David Jeans said. “We have things that we obviously have to sort out from today. As I told them yesterday, I will teach them until the very last time we are together.
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