During the West Catholic Athletic League season, the St. Ignatius baseball team failed to come through in so many key hitting situations that its confidence plummeted almost to the point of no return.
On Thursday, the No. 14-seed Wildcats showed they still had plenty of moxie in them in an impressive 11-3 win over No. 3 Saratoga (22-9) in the opening round of the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs. St. Ignatius (16-12) plays No. 11 Soledad (24-4) in a quarterfinal on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Washington Park in Santa Clara.
“It’s a brand-new season for us,” Wildcats coach Matt Stecher said. “We didn’t have the regular season we wanted to [SI went only 4-10 in WCAL play], but we have the ability to go far in this tournament.”
Just ask Santa Clara Valley De Anza Division champion Saratoga, which couldn’t have been happy that it had to open up against a potential buzzsaw in SI and its outstanding left-handed pitcher Matt Krook, who popped 95 mph on a fastball in the first inning in front of half a dozen pro scouts.
Krook and his teammates put on quite a show, out-hitting the Falcons 12-6.
Krook had three hits, including a three-run homer to right field that sailed over the trees in the distance to make it 7-0 in the fourth.
“That’s the farthest ball I’ve ever seen him hit,” said Wildcats center fielder Jack Stinn, whose two-out, third-inning grand slam gave SI a 4-0 lead. “I mean, it was over the trees — that was crazy.”
Krook, who picked up the win by tossing four shutout innings, was equally impressed with Stinn’s powerful, no-doubt-about-it shot to left field.
“That was awesome,” Krook said. “That got my adrenaline going, for sure.”
Stinn’s grand slam set the tone for a SI team that struggled mightily against the top teams in the pitching-rich WCAL. The Wildcats had the bases loaded with two outs in the third and needed someone — anyone — to deliver a clutch hit. Stinn promptly drilled a 1-2 fastball well over the left-field fence, giving SI a huge confidence booster.
“We just needed that one hit to turn us around,” Stinn said. “[In league play] we just couldn’t get that two-out knock. But we know we can compete with anyone.”
SI led 9-0 before the Falcons scored all three of their runs in the sixth. Stinn reached base in four of his five plate appearances, and shortstop Logan Steinberg had three hits while also making an outstanding defensive play in the fifth inning.