The fourth meeting between the Lowell and Washington baseball teams unfolded like their previous three meetings, where runs were hard to come by.
In another one-run affair, Lowell not only evened the season series, it left AT&T Park as city champs Tuesday.
With runners on second and third and one out in the top of the eighth inning, junior Anthony Aguirre lined out to right fielder Michael Andrewjeski, but it was just deep enough for Lowell sophomore Matthew Schivo to tag from third base. Schivo beat Andrewjeski's throw to give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.
Lowell junior Craig Colen — who relieved senior Max Read in the third inning — recorded the final out in the bottom of the inning by inducing Washington freshman Kai Moody into a pop-out back to the mound, clinching the 4-3 win and the Cardinals' second consecutive Academic Athletic Association-San Francisco Section championship.
Colen — who was the winning pitcher — was as good as advertised, as he threw six shutout innings and gave up only one hit, while striking out eight.
Due to throwing 111 pitches in last week's semifinal win over Balboa, Colen started at third base. However, once Washington went up 3-1, Lowell coach John Donohue summoned his ace.
“My coach pulled me aside yesterday and told me I better be ready to go, and I made sure I was completely ready,” Colen said. “The second I stepped on that mound, I knew I was going to have a good time.”
As for the moment of catching the final out to clinch Lowell's 13th championship under Donohue?
“That was probably the loudest I've shouted for a ball, and I just wanted to make absolutely sure that it would fall into my glove,” Colen said. “I shouted at the top of my lungs and after that, I just felt a teammate hit me in the back. I absolutely loved it.”
Making their 19th championship game appearance in the last 20 years, the heartbreaking loss for Washington marked the second consecutive season they came up short against their rival from the Sunset district.
Washington (12-15) led through most of the championship behind the strength of senior Sean Mathews. After Read walked Bakil Algaheim and Nick Wong, Mathews crushed a double to left field to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead in the second inning, and he later scored on Andrewjeski's groundout.
Despite giving up 11 hits, Eagles pitchers averted trouble throughout, stranding 11 Lowell runners on base. However Mathews — who went four innings after relieving Wong — couldn't pitch himself out of a jam in the eighth inning, as he had done in the previous three innings.
“We gave them opportunities and when [Colen] came in, we couldn't swing the bat,” Washington coach Rob Fung said. “If you give Lowell, a good team, extra opportunities, they're going to make you pay. We had pressure on ourselves every inning, which is how we played all year. They didn't crumble, but Lowell deserves some credit. The Lowell kids earned this championship.”
For Donohue, he said afterward that it “never gets old,” to win a championship. In a whirlwind of a season, where he won his 700th career game as a coach, winning another championship left Donohue grinning ear-to-ear.
He insists that next season will be his last. It's a season that could net Lowell's third three-peat in the Donohue era.
“Yes, it's fun for me, but one more round for me. That's it. I'm 106 years old,” joked Donohue. “Now it's OK for me to leave because the program [is in good hands].”