At the start of the high school baseball season, Wilcox and Santa Clara were not scheduled to play each other. With Wilcox in a higher division than Santa Clara, the rival schools don’t usually face each other in baseball. However, with both the Santa Clara varsity and frosh/soph teams having strong league seasons, Wilcox and Santa Clara decided to add a frosh/soph “scrimmage” to the schedule. Scrimmage gets quotation marks around it, because this was far from just another ho-hum practice game. Despite both teams having already learned their league fates, (Wilcox second at 10-3 and Santa Clara first at 12-1), this “scrimmage” game had all the intensity of a playoff match. School bragging rights were a big deal to these kids. The trash talk between dugouts earned multiple warnings from the umpires during the Chargers’ eventual 8-3 victory.
“It was good to play them,” commented Wilcox first baseman Alexander Tolbert, who drove in two runs with a first-inning single. “I’ve been here two years and I didn’t get to play them last year so I was excited when I heard we would get to play this game.
Was it weird that the umpires had a problem with the dugout chatter?
“We’ve been talking like that for most of the year and that’s the first umpire to tell us that we can’t really say that,” admitted Tolbert. “So I was a little surprised, especially the two teams that were playing, I thought he would be a little bit more lenient with the talk.”
Both teams were loud with their mouths and with their bats in the first inning. The Bruins jumped started things with a three-run rally that knocked Chargers starting pitcher Jayden Greco out of the game. Santa Clara leadoff man Jayden Niciso-Wilson got the better of his namesake with a leadoff walk. Jake Millett then followed up with a solid line drive single to left field.
“I was just going to swing at anything that was close, just wanted to get on base,” noted Millett on his single. “I wanted to stay aggressive at the plate.”
After a fielder’s choice left runners at first and second with one out, Connor Valory walked to load the bases. The first run then came in on a dropped fly ball in the outfield before Bruins sophomore Alijah Amaya added a two-run single through the five-and-half hole to put Santa Clara up 3-0.
The Chargers, though, would immediately respond with a three spot of their own. Wilcox leadoff hitter Jacob Dominguez started things off with a scorching line drive, an opposite-field double down the right-field line. The next three hitters all followed with base hits, culminating in Tolbert’s 2-RBI single, and just like that it was tied up again 3-3.
“We all grew up together playing Little League so it was fun to play against them,” chimed Dominguez, who went 3-4 on the afternoon with a pair of doubles. The first of Dominguez’s doubles was a big response after Santa Clara had taken the early lead. “Those three runs were not earned, so I wanted to show them how Wilcox plays, how we can hit and I think we did that.”
With the early offense on both sides, neither starting pitcher recorded more than three outs. In relief, both Wilcox pitcher Scott Smith and Santa Clara pitcher Connor Valory were impressive in the way they settled things down over the next few innings.
“I thought Valory did a hell of a job,” commented Bruins Head Coach Pedro Martinez. “He stayed composed, always been that kind of kid, even-keeled, level-headed kid. The score may have been 8-3, but he didn’t give up many runs. The defense didn’t really help him out. He settled things down when things were getting out of control after giving up the three-run lead.”
“Emotions were running pretty high on both sides that first inning, but Scott coming in and shutting them down was huge,” noted Wilcox Head Coach Matthew Huth. “That set the tone for the rest of the game and the rest of the pitchers that went out there.
Wilcox would add a run in the second and another in the fourth, but the game was still tight until the bottom of the fifth at just 5-3. After the Chargers hitters crushed the ball in the first inning, Valory only allowed two additional runs over the next three innings, giving his Bruins a chance to hang around.
At the end of the day, Wilcox rose victorious, but it looks like this might be the beginning of a yearly rivalry. The Santa Clara varsity squad currently holds their own destiny to win their league. If they hold on to first place, the Bruins will likely move up into the Chargers’ division next season. That’s an opportunity Millett would relish for some rivalry revenge.
“If varsity does their job, hopefully we will play them next year for a rematch.”