East County Sports

Sultans, Foothillers Open to winning



ECS staff report

RANCHO BERNARDO —- To a man, the Santana Sultans feel like they have been disrespected all season. In fact, even before the season started.

Apparently, it was easier for Grossmont Conference officials to place Santana in the Valley League rather than the more elite Hills League, where they were already enjoying success. Then the Sultans rattled off more than 20 victories, yet only slipped into the county rankings late in the season.

On Wednesday (June 9), Santana finally gained the opportunity to prove themselves against quality competition.

With almost every member of the starting lineup either scoring a run, registering a hit, or driving in a run, the seventh-seeded Sultans knocked off one of the San Diego Section’s elite programs by dropping Rancho Bernardo, 5-3, in the first round of the elite CIF Open Division field of eight.

The triumph extended Santana’s (21-4 overall) win streak to 15 games while ending the Broncos’ win stretch at eight.

The lone player to reach all three hitting categories was Cole Contreras, who fell one hit short of hitting for the cycle. The senior batted 3-for-3 with a triple and a double, good for an RBI while scoring once.

Meanwhile, Sultans pitcher Koda Alto ran his season record to a perfect 9-0 after limiting the Broncos to one earned run on six hits. Alto, a master at pitching to contact, also struck out a pair of RB batters.

“In the bottom of the fifth inning we had Caleb Harris start to warm up just in case I ran into some trouble but I had confidence in myself and that I wasn’t coming out,” Alto said. “The big key for the game was just to continue pitching the way I have been all season and don’t try and make every pitch special. I trusted my defense and they trust me. Our keys are to just continue to get better every day and grind toward that title.”

The game of “sticks and stones” (a team would score either once “sticks” or none “stones”) was finally broken in the fifth inning when the Sultans scored twice to push their advantage to 4-1.

Contreras set up the rally with a double, allowing Tyler Glowacki (single) to move to third base. Then with two down, Tyler Begg and Dean Landers sent consecutive ground balls through the infield for RBI singles.

Rancho Bernardo answered with a run but handed the marker right back to the Sultans in the sixth.

Davin Burroughs opened with a first-pitch single, moving to second base on a passed ball. Jason Gonzalez then laid down a sacrifice bunt, but RB decided to throw to third base. Instead, the ball raced down the left-field line and Burroughs waltzed home.

For Gonzalez, it was sweet revenge after twice earlier getting hit by a pitch. Meanwhile, Contreras was also plunked in the sixth in his final chance to hit a homer to complete the cycle.

“It was a good game that required us to stay focused through all seven innings,” Contreras said. “I didn’t think about it at the time. We were just focused on winning the game.”

Santana gained an opportunity to face the best from the Hills League in champion Grossmont in the winner’s bracket semifinals.  The third-seeded Foothillers advanced by whipping La Costa Canyon, 7-5, thus will host the Sultans at Gizoni Field on Friday at 3:30 p.m.

Rancho Bernardo (25-7), which saw Peyton Schulze bat 2-for-4 with an RBI, will host LCC’s Mavericks in an elimination contest.

Grossmont 7, La Costa Canyon 5

EL CAJON —- Continuing a season-long trend, the Grossmont Foothillers scored in their final at-bat,s, rallying to topple La Costa Canyon, 7-5, in the opening round of the CIF Open Division championships.

The Foothillers, second in the San Diego Section, were tied with the Mavericks at 2-all entering the fifth inning. After LCC tallied three times, the hosts answered with four runs to take the lead, then added an insurance run n the sixth to advance to the winner’s bracket semifinals.

The decisive fifth saw a pair of Grossmont errors led to all three Mavericks runs. However, the Hillers escaped on an inning-ending double play, which turned the tide.

The response started on consecutive leadoff singles by Evan Vasiliou and Noah Barnes. Vasiliou came home on a sacrifice fly by Isaiah Gomez.

Then with two outs, Justin Brown singled to trim the deficit to 5-4, followed by a go-ahead, two-run homer by Barron Zamora. The blast to right field also scored pinch-runner Justin Tucker.

An inning later,  Hillers reliever Jake Romero entered with the bases loaded and one out but registered a strikeout and a ground ball to escape.

Grossmont followed with an insurance run with another homer to right, this time by Gomez.

In the seventh, Romero earned his save with the aid of a double play started by second baseman Cody Bigley, who fed shortstop Reggie Williams, who fed to Vasiliou at first base.

Grossmont (27-5 overall) tangles with Santana on Friday, with the victor moving on to the Open Division winners bracket final.

“What an atmosphere today,” Grossmont head coach Jordan Abruzzo said. “That’s what high school baseball is all about. Really proud of our kids for the way they battled through some mistakes and found a way to win.”

The Hillers were the only higher-seeded ballclub to win in the Open Division.
Along with Santana, No. 8 Eastlake bounced top-seeded San Marcos, 2-1, while No. 5 Sage Creek nipped No. 4 Torrey Pines, 4-3.


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