Starting pitchers Nathan Aggarwal (Wilcox) and Jonathan Newman (Christopher) held dueling no-hitters through five innings in Saturday’s matinee quarterfinal at Washington Park. Thanks to three double plays turned behind him, Aggarwal actually faced the minimum 15 batters through five innings. The Chargers’ offense would finally break through with a run in the sixth and that was all the senior ace would need. Despite losing his no-hitter in the sixth, one final display of defensive brilliance helped Aggarwal finish off the 1-0, complete-game victory.
In the bottom of the seventh the Chargers defense came up with their fourth double play of the afternoon, saving their best for last. On a sharply hit ground ball up the middle, freshman shortstop Paul Rosa made a full-extension dive up the middle. From his belly Rosa flipped the ball to second baseman Jarrett Chapman covering the bag. Chapman then finished it off with a strong throw, just in time at first base to end the game.
“I knew my defense was going to play remarkable behind me, so every time we got into the dugout I was going up to my middle infielders giving them high fives because they turned, ‘what? Four double plays?’ That’s crazy,” chimed a jazzed up Aggarwal after the game. “That last double play, I thought that it was going through and then [Rosa] makes a hell of a play. And I thought we were just gonna get one [out], but then [Chapman] throws to first, absolutely crazy play. I didn’t even process it when it first happened, but I heard someone in the stands yell ‘turn it!’ and then we turned it. I still can’t even believe it, just crazy.”
“That’s kind of been our M.O. [this year], school record for double plays,” noted Chargers Head Coach David Currie. “Just a phenomenal play at the end. For sure the best play I’ve seen Wilcox make to end a game in CCS, just phenomenal.”
“I kind of want that play, you know?” asked Rosa rhetorically on his game-ending web gem. “In my mind I’m thinking lay out, and then the play comes and I lay out. It was kind of weird because I got an in-between hop.”
Rosa’s miraculous diving play capped off what was an incredibly dominant performance from Aggarwal. The Chargers starter had all of his pitches working, a two-seam fastball with sinking action helped him set up hitters for his two stellar breaking pitches, a slider and a curveball. The only hit Aggarwal ended up allowing actually went off first baseman Alex Adame’s glove. The senior starter allowed little in the way of loud contact from start to finish.
“His slider, curve and a sinker, his fastball has good sink. He doesn’t have high velocity, but he makes up for it with movement,” described Currie on Aggarwal. “He got his pitches over consistently and he just has that mental makeup to be out there under pressure.”
The Chargers offense finally broke through in support of Aggarwal with a clutch two-out RBI in the sixth. Adame got things started with a one-out, line-drive single into right field to break up Newman’s no hitter. It certainly wasn’t surprising to see the Chargers’ No. 3 hitter break up the no-no as the sophomore had been taking good swings off Newman in his previous two at bats.
“I wanted to keep getting at bats against [Newman],” admitted Adame after the game. “I was getting his timing down. On that last at bat I was just looking for something I could drive, looking for that fastball. He threw me two sliders to start off the at bat and then he gave me the fastball I was looking for and I just drove it.”
With two outs and Adame now at second, fellow sophomore Nick Malvini found himself with a chance to be the hero. More often than not high school hitters take a pitch when they have a 3-0 count. However, in this case, it was a rather obvious situation to give Malvini the green light. With two outs and a runner in scoring position late in a tie game, Currie let Malvini swing away. The move paid off as Malvini got the pitch he was looking for with count leverage and drove a line drive into left field, knocking in Adame.
“I was just looking for one location, 3-0,” responded Malvini on his game-winning RBI. “I just wanted to drive the runner in, they had a base open, but you never know. I just wanted to get my best swing on it, and I got my pitch.”
“[At] the Pioneer game he had some really good swings. He might have only had one hit, but the swings were good,” responded Currie on green-lighting Malvini. “Even when he struck out today, he fouled two balls straight back. With two outs we’re going to let him hit there [with Adame at second].”
It was surprising they didn’t just walk Malvini with a 3-0 count.
“They probably should have,” admitted Currie. “Maybe they thought we were taking, so that’s why it’s good sometimes to green light a guy.”
After giving up the lead in the top of the sixth, the Cougars almost tied the game in the bottom. A leadoff single, wild pitch and sacrifice bunt set the home team up with a runner at third with only one out. With the infield now drawn in, the third batter of the inning hit a sharp ground ball to Rosa at shortstop. The ball took a tricky hop, but Rosa stayed with it and made a strong, accurate throw home where catcher Jairus Baddo had plenty of time to apply the tag and keep Christopher off the board.
“I knew it was hit hard, so I was just trying to stay in front of it,” commented Rosa on gunning down the tying run at the plate. “I knew I could kind of shovel it up into my stomach before making the throw.”
With their quarterfinal victory in the books, the Chargers will now take on league-rival Los Altos in the semifinal round at San Jose Municipal stadium on May 25. Wilcox split their league series with the Eagles, going 1-1 in the two games.
-Wilcox’s opening round CCS victory on May 17 featured senior Taiga Sato throwing a complete game in an 8-2 victory over Pioneer. Sato also laid down two bunt singles with his bat as the Chargers’ ground attack opened up a 4-0 lead early in that game.
-Despite strong league seasons, both the Santa Clara Bruins baseball and softball teams lost their opening round CCS games. Baseball lost 10-0 to Westmont and softball dropped their first game 4-0 to Watsonville.