St. Mary's High's Nick Ultsch delivered a two-out, walk-off infield single as the Panthers beat Piedmont 7-6 to capture the North Coast Section Division IV baseball championship Friday at Saint Mary's College.
It was the first title since 2009 for top-seeded St. Mary's (19-5), which was making its fourth championship game appearance in the past five years.
Ultsch hit a chopper over the pitcher that was fielded by the shortstop. He dived into first base to beat the throw as Kevin Flemer, who led off the inning with a double, scored the winning run.
"First thing I thought was 'out', then I was running down the baseline I saw he had a tough time getting it," Ultsch said. "I knew it would be close, so I slid headfirst."
Flemer, an Oregon State-bound senior pitcher, didn't have his best performance on the mound but was 4 for 4 at the plate with two doubles and two RBIs to earn the title that eluded him when the Panthers made the finals his freshman and junior years.
"It means a lot," Flemer said. "I'm glad I get to go out on top."
It was also a bit of vengeance for his older brother Matt Flemer, a 2008 St. Mary's graduate whose high school career ended with an NCS semifinal loss to Piedmont on this same field. That Highlanders team was coached by current Panthers coach John Nelson.
"Just seeing that and seeing how sad all the seniors were that year, including my brother, they felt like their season was taken away from them," Flemer said. "We're glad we got (Nelson) on our side this year."
St. Mary's took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, with Flemer delivering an RBI double and Max Goldstein an RBI single.
In the third for Piedmont, Cooper Weatherbee doubled, Brendan O'Connor singled, and both scored on a triple by Ryan Sullivan. After Matt Horst walked, Spencer Gutterman tripled to give Piedmont a 4-2 lead.
The game went back and forth with St. Mary's tying it in the third, taking a 6-4 lead in the fourth, only to see No. 3 Piedmont (19-10) tie it in the sixth. The Highlanders stranded the bases loaded in the sixth, with Panthers' freshman Andre Nnebe working out of a jam in relief.
Concord 9, Clayton Valley Charter 2: A diving grab started a game-ending double play and the celebration began for the No. 3 Minutemen, who won the NCS Division II championship for the third time in the last four years with a victory over their crosstown rivals at Saint Mary's College.
Concord (22-4) scored three runs in the top of the first inning and all but ended Clayton Valley's hopes of a comeback with a five-run seventh. In between, Kelly Drake made some big pitches and the Concord defense made clutch plays.
"Honestly, the key to our success has been our defense," Concord coach Megan Coddington said. "We have everydays (drills) that we do, and we are meticulous. That catch in the last inning is evidence of the hard work that we put in at practice."
Shortstop Aleyna Benipayo had another defensive highlight reel play for Concord, crashing into the fence to catch a foul pop-up and end a bases loaded threat in the second inning.
That was the story for much of the game. Concord made key defensive plays and the Eagles could not, committing four errors.
No. 2 Clayton Valley (22-4) trailed the whole way but narrowed the gap to 4-2 in the fifth inning when Shannon Mestas hit a two-run homer just inside the foul pole in left field.
But Concord broke the game open in the top of the seventh. Drake hit a three-run double, and a wild pitch and error allowed two more runs to score.
Drake finished 2 for 4 with four RBIs. Benipayo and A.J. Ross both drove in runs in the first inning.
Concord and Clayton Valley shared the Diablo Valley Athletic League title after splitting their two regular season games and know each other well.
"I grew up playing with like the whole (Clayton Valley) team," Drake said. "It was tough, and it was added pressure but I knew that if we just focused and played our game we would win."
-- Stephanie Hammon