The St. Ignatius baseball team couldn’t have asked for a better scenario after whipping Branham of San Jose 11-2 in a Central Coast Section Division II playoff semifinal at Municipal Stadium on Thursday. In advancing to Saturday’s 1 p.m. championship game for the second straight season — the No. 14 seed Wildcats (18-12) play No. 5 Willow Glen — St. Ignatius might have ace Matt Krook available for a couple of innings in relief, if necessary. That was made possible after the senior left-hander needed just 27 pitches to complete three innings against the overmatched and No. 10 seed Bruins (18-12).
“I’m thinking for me that was kind of like a bullpen session,” said Krook, who didn’t allow a hit while striking out six of the nine batters he faced. “It felt really easy on my arm, like it went by [in a flash]. I’m coming into relief on Saturday, if needed, and hopefully I can repeat that performance.”
The SI bats stayed hot, battering Branham for seven runs in the top of the first inning, highlighted by Dylan Foster’s two-run double. Foster (three RBIs), the No. 8 hitter in SI’s lineup, and No. 6 hitter Stephan Ostrowski combined for six of the Wildcats’ 12 hits. Logan Steinberg (two RBIs) and Krook had two hits each.
SI has scored 27 runs in three CCS playoff games, a far cry from the struggles it faced scoring in the West Catholic Athletic League season. However, the Wildcats are peaking at the perfect time, and a second straight section title seems well within reach.
“Oh man, we’re on fire,” Krook said. “We’re hitting well, pitching well, fielding well, and I think we’re going to [win the title on Saturday].”
Said SI coach Matt Stecher: “We had some rough patches in the season, but we’re playing our best baseball right now.”
Jack Schoenberger and Andrew Ferrero pitched two innings each to close out the game. Stecher said Jonathan Hernandez will likely start Saturday’s title game. After the team’s seven-run outburst in the top of the first, Stecher and pitching coach Forrest Higgins had a long discussion exploring every option on how to best set up a victory on Saturday.
The most extreme option would’ve been to not pitch Krook at all on Thursday, but Krook was ready to go and the Wildcats didn’t have anyone else warmed up, Stecher said. In the end, the Wildcats were able to seal the win early and have Krook — who has never pitched twice over a three-day span in his SI career — possibly ready to pitch on Saturday.