By Jimmy Durkin
The Amador Valley High baseball team's confidence was admittedly shaken when it suffered a four-game losing streak late in the season.
Slowly, the confidence came back and led the Dons on a postseason run that ended Saturday at Saint Mary's College with a 3-1 victory over De La Salle to capture the North Coast Section Division I championship.
"What we really lost was our image," Amador Valley coach Lou Cesario said. "For the last three weeks, we've been focusing on rebuilding our image, how we wanted to play, what we wanted to accomplish. The longer it went, they just rallied and started to believe again."
It was the third win this season over the No. 2 seed Spartans (19-8), the defending NCS champions. The title is the first for No. 4 Amador Valley (18-10) since 2010.
Nick Carney earned the win with 31/3 innings of relief, which included inducing a huge bases-loaded double play to end the fourth inning.
"Biggest play of the game right there," Carney said. " ... It shut them down. They were on a rally. Once we got that ground ball, I knew we were going to get this."
Amador held a 2-1 lead at that point thanks to a first-inning RBI single by Michael Echavia and fourth-inning single by Nick McGillivray.
Echavia, the Dons starting pitcher, hit the first two batters to start the bottom of the fourth. That's when Carney entered.
After a sacrifice bunt, the Spartans loaded the bases on a walk. De La Salle brought in John Velasco to pinch hit and he hit a grounder right back to Carney. The throw went home to catcher Daniel Jackson for one and on to first for a double play.
De La Salle never put more than one runner on the rest of the way.
Amador added a run in the fifth on another RBI single by Echavia. Jake Dronkers earned the save by relieving Carney in the seventh and getting the final two outs.
Campolindo 8, Casa Grande-Petaluma 0: Senior Trent Shelton went 4 for 4 in the No. 2 seeded Cougars' rout of No. 1 Casa Grande in the NCS Division II title game at Santa Rosa Junior College.
Campolindo, 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. Four-year players Shelton, Robbie Tenerowicz and Brett Stephens never suffered an NCS loss, going 16-0.
"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."
After three straight 2-0 wins, the Cougars' offense woke up with 15 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, as the Cougars became the first NCS baseball team to record four straight playoff shutouts.
"We threw four shutouts in four playoff games, that's the most impressive thing," said Campolindo coach Max Luckhurst, whose team (21-6-1) finished with 16 straight wins.
The left-handed Ladrech carried a one-hitter through five innings on a sweltering afternoon against a potent Casa Grande 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.
-- Matt Schwab
Acalanes 4, Analy-Sebastopol 3: 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 to beat the Tigers in the NCS Division III title game at Saint Mary's.
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."
Johnny York delivered the Dons to this point Wednesday 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.
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 Matthias 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.
-- Jimmy Durkin
Head-Royce 11, Valley Christian 1: Steven Farinaro made his final high school game a memorable one, throwing a two-hitter as the Jayhawks won the NCS Division V crown for the second year in a row and third in five years with a win over the Vikings at Fremont Christian High.
The UCLA-bound Farinaro allowed just two singles, in the third and the sixth, had nine strikeouts and allowed just one runner to third after the first inning.
"This was a total team effort and it was great to see the defense make the plays out there," Farinaro said. "It's an incredible feeling to finish out like this, the experience at Head-Royce has been awesome."
Head-Royce (23-5) jumped on Valley Christian starter Jared Dalrymple in the first inning as Michael Greenfield roped three-run double to give the Jayhawks a 3-0 lead. The Vikings scored their lone run without a hit in the first when Vince Volpatti was hit by a pitch and stole three bases, including home on a double steal.
Head-Royce came right back in the second as Matt Forster hit a two-run double while Nico Hoerner and CJ Novogradac added RBI singles in the second for a 7-1 advantage.
Greenfield, who went 3 for 4 on the day, added a three-run triple in the seventh.
Hoerner and Ian Lituchy had two hits apiece for the Jayhawks. Volpatti and Will Cantrell both had singles for the Vikings, who finished the season at 19-8.
-- Tony Gonzalez, correspondent