There are moments that live forever.
For the Lowell High School baseball team, Wednesday was one of those occasions. Elijah Saunders pitched a complete game, four- hitter, while also going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in leading the Cardinals to a convincing 7-0 win over longtime rival Washington in the San Francisco Section-Academic Athletic Association playoff championship game at AT&T Park. This was Lowell’s 18th tournament championship victory, but first since 2008. The Cardinals (25-6) play the Oakland Section champion in the best-of-three Transbay Series starting on Tuesday at San Francisco State University.
“I can’t even express [to you] how good this feels,” Saunders said. “This is definitely the best game of my life, maybe not performance wise, but [how I played in] the situation.”
Ditto that for the entire Lowell team, which was superb in every facet of the game: pitching, hitting, fielding and even in the intangibles, as it was strong mentally in making all the right calls and reads in certain situations. Then again, the Cardinals simply did on Wednesday what they’ve done all year — play mistake-free baseball.
“It wasn’t a fluke or anything,” Saunders said. “I knew the guys behind me could make the plays.”
Saunders pointed to the superb defensive efforts of catcher Jake Simons and sophomore shortstop Joshua Ng, who made several tough plays look routine. Because of those defensive efforts and Saunders’ pitching, Washington (13-15) could never get anything going. The Eagles were limited to four singles — one each from Chris Yee, Chris Hau, Zach Dair and Garret Chiem — and only advanced a runner past second base on one occasion, with two outs in the top of the sixth inning.
Lowell, meanwhile, had no trouble getting its offense in gear. Saunders was a big reason why, as all three of his hits were doubles. Saunders’ first hit made it 1-0 in the third, and an inning later he hit a two-run double to make it 5-0. Josh Vaughan, Andy Glickfeld and Simons drove in the other Lowell runs. The Cardinals also won the AAA round-robin title, proving their dominance from the get-go.
“We knew [after last season was over] we had a good team coming back,” said Lowell coach John Donohue, who has a career record of 688-367.
Before the season started, the Cardinals knew they had the best collection of talent in the AAA. Then they went out and proved it.