Piedmont baseball takes 2 of 3 in late season push to playoffs

The Highlanders clinched the regular season title in the West Alameda County Conference (WACC)-Shoreline Division with a big win over San Leandro. “We have won the regular season Shoreline league for the first time in my tenure at PHS, and we’ll be hosting a league playoff game on Tuesday, May 7th,” said Coach Eric Olson. “This was achieved with a stellar 4-2 record against Foothill league teams (including wins over Alameda, Arroyo, and Castro Valley along with San Leandro), a record never achieved by previous Piedmont teams. This team is special and I look forward to watching them compete in the upcoming league and NCS playoffs.”

Piedmont 10, San Leandro 7

The Highlanders earned a hard-fought extra-inning win at San Leandro on April 24.  There were 6 lead changes in the game, both teams collected 15 hits, and both also had miscues in the field.  It all added up to an action-packed game, which Piedmont pulled out with a 3-run 9th inning.  Alex Hilton pitched 3 and two-thirds innings in relief and allowed only 1 unearned run for the win.

Piedmont got started right away in the first inning.  Owen Levinson singled up the middle, Joe Sassi walked, and Kyle Spanier loaded the bases on an infield single.  Paul Woolcott collected one his three hits and three RBI’s in the game as his single brought in Levinson for a 1-0 lead.

Ben Levinson started for the Highlanders and pitched a shut-down inning that featured a strike out-throw out double play with catcher Cal Barna.

San Leandro struck for two runs in the 2nd as they strung together three singles, a sacrifice bunt, and a sacrifice fly for a 2-1 lead. 

Piedmont fought back in the 3rd.  With one out, Sassi doubled to deep right field.  Sassi advanced on a ground out by Woolcott, and then raced home to tie the score at 2 when the catcher made a bad throw back to the pitcher.

The Pirates then put together a double and two singles for two more runs and a 4-2 lead.  The inning ended when Barna delivered his second assist of the game by throwing out a runner trying to advance to second after a throw to the plate.

The fourth and fifth innings were scoreless for both teams, as Ben Levinson navigated the San Leandro order successfully.  Piedmont came to bat in the sixth inning down two runs. And, as has happened so many times in this season of great comebacks, the Highlanders rallied. 

With two outs and no one on base, Jonah Sanders singled to right field.  Myles Smith came in to pinch run for Sanders. Ryan Fitzgerald followed with his own single to right field and Smith sped to third. Trent Settlemier then lined a double to deep right center field, with both Smith and Fitzgerald scoring to tie the game. Owen Levinson reached on an error, with Settlemier scored on the play to give Piedmont the lead. The Pirates elected to intentionally walk Sassi, and Spanier followed with a single to load the bases. Woolcott singled to drive in Levinson and Sassi, and the Highlanders led 7-4. 

San Leandro came back in their half of the 6th, to no one’s surprise.  After two singles and a Piedmont error loaded the bases, Ben Levinson induced the next batter to line out to center field. Coach Eric Olson then brought in Alex Hilton for relief, and the next batter doubled to drive in two runs.  With runners at second and third, the next hitter hit a grounder to shortstop Sanders, who initially fumbled the ball. He stayed with the play, however, and San Leandro found themselves with two runners at third base because the runner at second tried to advance on the dropped ball, but the runner on third did not. Sanders tagged out the runner from second.  The runner at third took off for home, and Sanders easily threw him out at home, with Barna applying the tag.  The inning ended on the unusual double play, with Piedmont up 7-6.

After the Highlanders failed to score in the 7th, San Leandro’s lead-off batter singled in the bottom of the seventh, and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.  The next batter popped out to Woolcott.  Another single put San Leandro runners at first and third with two outs.   Hilton worked the count on the next batter to two strikes and then induced a ground ball, but a Piedmont error allowed the tying run to score.  Hilton remained composed and the next batter was called out when his bunted ball hit him in fair territory.  The seventh inning ended with the score tied 7-7, and the game headed to extra innings.

Neither team scored in the 8th inning, as Hilton continued on the mound for the Highlanders.  In the ninth, Woolcott opened the inning with a single.  Aidan Dixon pinch-ran, and Lucas Derr laid down a well-placed sacrifice bunt, reaching base on a wild throw by the third baseman. On the play, Dixon advanced to third and Derr to second. With no outs, Barna hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field, driving in Dixon with the go-ahead run.  Derr advanced to third, and then it was Sanders’ turn to lay down a bunt. It was a beauty, with Derr scoring on the play and Sanders reaching first as San Leandro unsuccessfully tried to get Derr out at home.  Settlemier then lined his second big double of the game, and Sanders came in to score.  Piedmont’s half of the 9th ended with the Highlanders leading 10-7.

Hilton shut down the Pirates in the bottom of the 9th with a strikeout, a pop-out to Woolcott, and a game ending pop-out to second baseman Owen Levinson. The Piedmont faithful went home drained but pleased.

With the win, the Highlanders raised their season record to 12 wins and 6 losses.  Piedmont’s leaders included Settlemier, Woolcott, and Spanier with 3 hits; Settlemier and Woolcott with 3 RBI’s; and Owen Levinson and Sassi with 2 runs scored. Hilton earned the win on the mound. 

Piedmont 15, San Lorenzo 0

Earlier in the week, the Highlanders shut out San Lorenzo. Abe Barnes led the way, pitching a sparkling 3-hit shutout, with 6 strikeouts. Barnes was around the plate all day, throwing 66% of his pitches for strikes, facing only four batters over the minimum, and, interestingly, recording no ground ball outs (there were only strikeouts and pop-ups). He also fielded his position well.

The Highlander offense collected 13 hits and combined them with 7 walks, 1 hit batter, and 3 San Lorenzo errors for their 15 runs.  Piedmont scored 4 runs in the first, 1 run in the second, and added a big 10-run fourth inning to seal the victory. Highlights included Nick Parker’s first start of the season, which he led off with a single, and Lars Derr driving in 2 runs in the 1st. In the 4th, Brian Cain and Alex Hilton singled; Luke Harris added a blast high off of the right field fence for a double; Aidan Dixon smashed a double to right center; and Myles Smith lined a triple to left center. 

Lars Derr collected three hits, Lucas Derr and Harris had two hits each, and all three had multi-RBI games. Aidan Dixon added a multi-RBI game of his own.  Four Highlanders scored 2 runs each – Smith, Sassi, Harris, and Ben Levinson.  

Piedmont 0, Berkeley 15

After the highs of winning the first two games of the week, a very strong Berkeley team dealt the Highlanders their worst loss of the season. Few things went right for the Highlanders as they committed 7 errors, issued 12 walks, hit one batter, and collected only 4 hits of their own.

Next Up

Piedmont travels to Mt. Eden on April 29 and Hayward on April 30. The WACC-Shoreline Division play-offs begin on May 7, with the Highlanders set to host the game on Senior Day. Piedmont’s 10 seniors — Lucas Derr, Aidan Dixon, Ryan Fitzgerald, Owen Levinson, Nick Parker, Jonah Sanders, Joe Sassi, Trent Settlemier, Myles Smith, and Paul Woolcott — will be celebrated starting at 3:30PM. The game is scheduled to start at 4PM.

Photos by Julie Moll

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