The Santa Clara Bruins are on their way to the Central Coast Section playoffs, clinching a postseason spot without any help, except well, maybe a little from Harry Houdini himself. At the start of the day Friday the Bruins sat in second place in the El Camino league standings, needing to hold onto that spot in order to qualify for CCS. A win in the season finale and the Bruins would be in the playoffs. However, Bruins Head Coach Sean Grizzle admitted he was aware that an earlier result on Friday between Lynbrook and Gunn meant the Bruins were in the playoffs regardless of the outcome of their Friday night game against Monta Vista. Grizzle of course didn’t inform his team of the earlier results and so his players played as if they needed to win, which they did, in a 8-0 victory.
After taking a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first, the Bruins escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the top of the second inning with some Houdini-level evasion. After a mundane strikeout, the Matadors still had the bases loaded with only one out. This is where things got mind-bogglingly weird. The following batter hit a soft liner just over the second baseman’s outstretched arm and into shallow right field. As the ball dropped into the outfield grass, the trained baseball mind assumed one run was coming into score while all the other runners moved up.
Amazingly though, not a single runner scored on the play. The lead runner at third base inexplicably went back to the bag to tag up. While the ball was somewhat close to being caught in the air, it wasn’t nearly deep enough to tag up and score. Bruins right fielder Brandon Mungaray fired a strong throw home throwing out the lead runner.
“Usually, when it’s a bases-loaded base hit, I’m looking to throw the runner out from second, because he’s usually rounding third ready to go home. But since the ball was so shallow and kind of hit hard, I was looking to throw out the runner going [from first] to second because I noticed that he slipped and fell,” recalled Mungaray on the bizarre sequence. “So I was getting ready to throw him out and then I noticed that the runner [at third] kept going, but I wasn’t sure which runner it was. I just saw a runner going so I just threw it as hard as I could at the plate and luckily we got him out.”
Mungaray admitted he didn’t quite know what exactly happened until center fielder Pako Vehikite asked if anyone scored.
“Pako was like, ‘Did anybody score on that play? I don’t think anyone scored.’ I legit thought somebody scored and I looked up and they weren’t putting it on the scoreboard, and I noticed the bases were still loaded. So I was kind of confused, but I wasn’t complaining.”
A nice running catch by Vehikite in center would end the inning without a single run crossing the plate. Bruins starting pitcher Tyler Kennedy was also a bit perplexed on how he managed to keep the Matadors from getting on the board in that situation.
“At first I thought it was a base hit to right field, so I went to back up home,” recalled the Bruins’ ace on the bizarre sequence. “And then I realized the runner at third was tagging up. I figured he was still going to score, but then he kind of hesitated and Mungaray just made an outstanding throw and got him out, it was a great play.”
Through three-and-a-half innings the Matadors actually had twice as many hits as the Bruins (six to three), but at that point Santa Clara had what felt like a pretty commanding 4-0 lead. Neither team hit for much power, but the Bruins just did a far better job executing on the basepaths. Bruins versatile infielder Mikey Souza came through with the only extra-base hit of the game, a fourth-inning, two-RBI double to cap off a four-run rally, extending the lead to 8-0.
At that point, Grizzle pulled Kennedy from the mound with the outcome essentially decided and the playoffs already guaranteed.
Santa Clara takes on Westmont in the opening round of CCS on May 17.