It's tough to top what the Acalanes High baseball team accomplished in the last week of the season.

After Johnny York pitched the Dons into the North Coast Section Division III championship with a perfect game on May 29, Acalanes finished its season off in style with a 4-3 win over Analy-Sebastopol at Saint Mary's College on June 1 to claim its third straight NCS crown.

"I've been in baseball playing and coaching my whole life," Acalanes coach Justin Santich-Hughes said after the win over Analy. "I've never, in a four-day span, seen anything like this."

Against Analy, Andrew Merken went the distance on the mound for the top-seeded Dons (20-7) and Tyler Supple went 2 for 4 with a key two-run double. It's the third time the senior Merken has pitched the decisive game to deliver a section title to Acalanes.

"It's been incredible," Merken said. "It's hard to find a group of guys that want it that bad to win it three times in a row."

York delivered the Dons to the title game when he struck out 15 in a 1-0 perfect game win over Sonoma Valley.

"It was real fun. I tried to stay focused by making sure nobody gets a hit," York said. "The pressure was never really big until the seventh and then I felt a ton of it. Then I just focused on getting the batters out."

Acalanes scored an unearned run in the first when Jack Veasey was hit by a pitch and eventually scored on a wild pitch. The Dons added on in the second when Supple crushed a pitch that bounced off the warning track in the left field to make it 3-0.


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No. 3 seed Analy (23-6) got back in the game with two runs in the third. Acalanes got one run back in the fourth on an RBI single by Veasey.

The Tigers made it interesting in the seventh. Dylan Mathias singled, stole second and moved to third on a groundout with two outs. Evan Hill walked and Garrett Hill drove in a run with an RBI single.

With the tying run at second, Merken struck out Jacob McKnight swinging to end it.

"Merken's been overcoming things his entire career," Santich-Hughes said. "That was his third start in a championship game. There's nobody else I'd rather have up there than Merken in that situation."

It's easy for the Dons to be overshadowed while playing in the Diablo Foothill Athletic League with Campolindo, perennially one of the top teams in the area. But Acalanes has split its season series the past two years and has been hardened by playing top competition.

"It helps to play a caliber of team that they are. It has to help," Santich-Hughes said of Campolindo. "And we schedule hard in our nonleague too. Cal High, San Ramon Valley. We don't like to duck opponents. We challenge ourselves because the only way to win in the playoffs is to be battle-tested."

Campolindo 8, Casa Grande-Petaluma 0: Campolindo senior Trent Shelton walked off the field with four hits and four section championships. Not a bad haul.

The first baseman was 4 for 4 in the No. 2 seeded Cougars' rout of No. 1 Casa Grande-Petaluma in the NCS Division II title game at Santa Rosa Junior College on June 1.

Campolindo (21-6-1), which got a three-hitter from junior Cal commit Matt Ladrech, earned its fourth consecutive NCS baseball crown, upping its record streak for East Bay teams.

That means four-year players Shelton, Robbie Tenerowicz and Brett Stephens have never suffered an NCS loss.

"It feels awesome. It never gets old," said the 6-foot-4 Shelton, who is headed to Oregon State. "I can't believe it. It's indescribable. Just being with your best friends all the time playing baseball and winning championships is the best thing you can ask for."

The Cougars' offense woke up with 15 hits — a welcome relief after three straight nail-biting 2-0 wins.

The completeness of the championship game effort epitomized Campolindo coach Max Luckhurst's team-first approach.

Even No. 9 hitter, sophomore Conner McNally, had two hits. Eight of the team's nine starters got at least one hit, and the defense was error-free and turned two double plays.

Impressively, Ladrech and Shelton each tossed two shutouts in the playoffs.

"We threw four shutouts in four playoff games, that's the most impressive thing," said Luckhurst, whose team finished with 16 straight wins enduring tough schedule.

The left-handed Ladrech carried a one-hitter through five innings on a sweltering afternoon against a potent lineup. The Gauchos (27-3) beat College Park 12-10 in 13 innings in the semifinals.

"He threw a shutout against the No. 1 seed. Game over," Luckhurst said of Ladrech. "He threw a shutout in game two, game four. First-team all-league: He went into the playoffs with a 0.50 ERA. Our pitching staff was tremendous."

After Cody Kiriaze tripled and scored on a passed ball to give Campolindo a 1-0 lead in the second inning, the Cougars tacked on three more in the third.

Stephens had a leadoff triple. Shelton followed with an RBI single, and Tenerowicz walked. Denis Karas singled, and Ryan Hooper smacked a two-run single. Shelton and Hooper added RBI singles in the fourth.

Campolindo beat Clayton Valley 2-0 on May 29 behind Shelton's three-hitter.

-- Matt Schwab

Softball

Campolindo 4, Terra Linda-San Rafael 3: Sarah Reynolds singled in the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth to lift the Cougars (15-9) to an improbable NCS Division III championship over the Trojans (23-5) at San Marin High in Novato on June 1.

"I had just got a little anxious in my last at bat," Reynolds said. "Coach Bob (McLaughlin) just told me to calm down and take a deep breath. So I did and just focused on the ball and made a good hit."

The hit came minutes after Terra Linda tied the game on a three-run home run by Cheyenne Cooper with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. But the fact that this team had to do it the hard way was no surprise.

Campolindo started the season with Joe Long as head coach. However, Long resigned under pressure from parents, according to the school newspaper, La Puma.

McLaughlin, the wrestling coach at Campolindo and a former softball assistant, stepped in during spring break with the Cougars holding a 3-5 record.

Campolindo won its first game, then lost three in a row. The Cougars then won seven of their final nine games to squeak into the NCS playoffs as a No. 7 seed with an 11-9 record.

"It's just crazy," Reynolds said. "It's been crazy but we've just pushed through. We've come together as a team these last couple of games more than I can ever imagine us coming together.

"It's just been amazing. It's been a great season."

The game was scoreless into the fifth when Campolindo scored three runs. Zoe Marrott doubled in two of them and Kristen Ghamghami followed with a double for the third run.

Shelly Suhling made that stand up until the seventh. A hit batter and her own error helped set up Cooper's home run. Suhling went the distance for the win, allowing the three unearned runs on five hits, striking out six against two walks.

-- Damin Esper

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