Balboa High School sent shock waves through the Academic Athletic Association baseball playoffs Thursday by blowing out favored Lowell High School 11-2 at Big Rec. After losing to Lowell three times over the course of the regular season, the Bucs charged out of the gate in their AAA semifinal matchup and never looked back.
Eli Smoot and Jeremy Wong both cleared the bases with triples in the first two innings, catapulting Balboa to a 7-0 lead early in the game. The Bucs added four more in the seventh inning, but at that point, the game had already been decided. Wong finished the game 3-for-4 with five RBIs to ignite the Buccaneers’ offense.
“I just wanted to get big hits for my team. We practice a lot in [the] batting cage, and I think we did well today,” Wong said.
Lowell starting pitcher Nick Tam was not his usual self, as he gave up seven hits and seven runs in the first two innings. He was battling illness and was pulled after the second.
Meanwhile, Balboa starting pitcher Alex Arnold shut down the Cardinals’ offense, and settled into a groove after having some trouble in the early innings.
The Cardinals squandered bases-loaded situations in the first two innings, and it was smooth sailing for Arnold from there. He cruised to a complete-game seven-hitter, inducing three double plays that stalled the Lowell offense.
“Those [double plays] are rally-killers,” Balboa coach Tom Pontino said. “[Arnold] was shaky in the beginning, but he finally got himself together. Credit to him, he stuck it out. He went out there and fought.”
The Cardinals’ day was epitomized by a double play that concluded the second inning.
With the bases loaded, Lowell second baseman Jake Simons hit a rocket back toward the pitching mound. Arnold snagged the liner, and rifled a throw to first to end the threat.
One of the few bright spots for the Cardinals was the relief performance of Jacob Gleason. Gleason relieved Nick Tam and threw four perfect innings before running into a jam in the seventh.
“[Gleason’s] one of our co-captains, and I think the world of him and our other co-captains,” Lowell coach John Donahue said. “We did a good job up until this game, but we wish Balboa all the best. They played us hard.”
It’s a disappointing end to the season for the Cardinals, who have been upset in the AAA playoffs in two consecutive years. Meanwhile, Balboa looks ahead to the championship game against Washington, which topped Lincoln 7-2 in the other semifinal, on Thursday at AT&T Park.
In the three prior meetings against Bellarmine this season, St. Ignatius couldn’t get a win — not a match, or even a game. But the Wildcats came through in the most important match of the year, upsetting the top-seeded Bells 31-29, 21-25, 16-25, 26-24, 15-13 to clinch the first West Catholic Athletic League championship in school history.
St. Ignatius rallied back in the fourth game after facing four match points and rode the hot hand of senior Mat Collins in the fifth. Collins had five kills in the fifth and had a match-high 19 total.
Jeremy Balan contributed to this report. Preps sports coverage provided in partnership by The San Francisco Examiner and SanFranPreps.com