OAKLAND — Stanford baseball commit and Oakland Tech shortstop Adam Crampton didn’t even have to step to the plate for his presence to tip the scales in the first game of the 2019 Transbay Series.
After the Academic Athletic Association champion Lowell Cardinals chose to intentionally walk Crampton with first base open following a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning with the score deadlocked 2-2, the Bulldogs weren’t even going to give the Cardinals a chance to avoid Crampton again in the ninth.
Instead, with no outs and men on first and second, No. 9 hitter Cameron Bonzell showed bunt, pulled back and then swung away, sending an 0-1 pitch into center field and allowing Emilio Cohen to score the winning run ahead of center fielder Trey Chase’s throw, giving Oakland Tech the 3-2, extra-inning walkoff win and a 1-0 lead in the annual series between the San Francisco and Oakland section champions.
“Levi’s been our guy all year,” Lowell head coach Daryl Semien said. “It’s a disappointment we couldn’t push runs across to get a W for him in a situation where he went and did his job. Baseball’s a team sport, and for lack of a better analogy, all cylinders have to be clicking.”
The defeat put a damper on Levi Humphrey’s final start for Lowell (21-7), a gem of a game in which he allowed just two runs on six hits over seven innings. The Cardinals found themselves in a hole right away as Alex George singled to center with one out in the first, moved to second on a balk and came home on a Dylan Hughes RBI single, but Humphrey found himself with the lead after a two-run rally in the top of the third.
Catcher Shane Stanley singled to start the frame and Cameron Tang’s double to the gap in left-center put two men in scoring position, with Stanley scoring and Tang advancing to third on Humphrey’s RBI groundout. A wild pitch would allow Tang to score, giving the Cardinals a lead that would last until the sixth.
In that fateful sixth inning, Humphrey was a hair away from getting out of a jam despite a one-out double from Hughes, as he struck Sammy Heinz out looking. Isaac Lucas was the only thing standing between Humphrey and escaping the inning, but his fly ball to the gap in right-center popped out of the glove of right fielder Connor Vo, who made a valiant effort to cover the spacious outfield but couldn’t seal the deal, and the game was tied up at 2-2.
The Cardinals had a golden opportunity to retake the lead right after, as Philippe Astier singled, advanced to second on a pickoff error and went to third on a two-out wild pitch, but Cohen came up clutch after relieving Aidan Young, striking Stanley out to end the inning. Humphrey had one last jam in the bottom of the seventh as Oakland Tech (11-12) got a leadoff single from Michael Paltiel, but after Bonzell bunted him over to second, Lowell took advantage of the open base to walk Crampton, and Humphrey struck out George before getting Blaine French, likely the final batter he’ll face in his high school career, to fly out to right.
While the Cardinals had a man on in both the eighth and the ninth, perhaps the most regrettable wasted chances were in the third after taking the lead but failing to add on.
Humphrey’s RBI groundout cleared the bases, but Jack Schonherr walked and Mark Zhu struck out on a pitch in the dirt but managed to beat the throw to first, allowing Schonherr to advance all the way to third in the process. Zhu took second during Vo’s at-bat, but a groundout to second ended the inning.
Vo did have two hits on the day, but a perfect relay throw by Crampton nailed him at third on an attempt to stretch a double into a triple, ending the top of the sixth.
Schonherr singled in the eighth but was picked off, and Vo was left on second after a one-out single in the top of the ninth. With Tang returning to the mound for his second inning of relief work, he allowed a leadoff single once again, but unlike in the eighth inning, he was unable to coax a double play. He then walked Paltiel, and Bonzell ripped an 0-1 pitch on a line through the drawn-in infield to end the game. It marked the third straight Bulldog extra-inning win in the series, as Oakland Tech had swept the 2018 edition with one-run wins in eight and nine innings. The teams have alternated winning the series in each of the past four years, but Oakland Tech now has a golden opportunity to take the crown for a second year in a row.
The series now shifts to San Francisco, where Lowell will serve as the home team on Thursday at San Francisco State’s Maloney Field, with first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. and Schonherr, who pitched Lowell to wins in both the AAA semifinals and championship game, set to take the hill for the Cardinals.