On Friday night at Washington Park, Santa Clara Bruins star senior Tyler Kennedy struck out with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh (the final inning in high school baseball) with his team trailing the Fremont Firebirds by two runs. Yet, Santa Clara would go on to win the game. The third strike to Kennedy got through the catcher’s legs and all the way to the backstop. Kennedy would reach first safely and a run would score before the Fremont catcher could get the ball back to home plate for a force out.
Bruins’ second baseman Justin Cedro would follow with a bases-loaded walk, forcing home the tying run. Next up was Connor Valory whose pop up toward medium right-center field looked like it would be caught. However, the ball would fall harmlessly to the ground as the center fielder’s desperation dive was unsuccessful. The Bruins then stormed out of the dugout as walk-off winners. Just how they drew it up, right?
In actuality, the game was filled with numerous walks and mistakes on both sides. Bruins starting pitcher Nick Postag was the definition of effectively wild. He survived a bases loaded one-out jam in the top of the fourth. After an infield error, Postag issued a walk and a hit by pitch before finishing off the inning with two impressive strikeouts.
“Postag did not even notice that he had a no hitter going for a while there,” chuckled Bruins Head Coach Brett Hall. “He’s the most honest kid I think we have on the team. He will let you know whether he has it or whether he doesn’t it. He’ll tell you if he missed, he’ll tell you if it was a strike. He even said going into the last inning, ‘if I’m throwing a bunch of balls just take me out’ and I didn’t want to tell him he has a no hitter going because that’s an unspoken rule.”
If not for his battery mate behind the plate, Postag wouldn’t have been able to get out of that fourth inning jam unscathed. Bruins’ catcher Robert Green not only made multiple impressive blocks of balls in the dirt, but one of them was of the unbelievable variety. A breaking ball that ended up a good three feet outside and in the dirt had Green laying out full extension. He somehow snagged it with his mitt.
“We can’t replace him, he’s our No. 1 catcher,” remarked coach Hall on Green. “This year he has blocked really really well. He takes it upon himself to work to get better each day too.”
The job Green and Postag did to keep the game close allowed the Bruins to hang around. Tyler Penrod came into pitch in the fifth inning and did a good job settling things down. The play of the night though was easily Valory’s diving catch in right-center field. After a 15-yard dead sprint, Valory made a high-backhanded catch on a full-extension dive. Had ESPN cameras been in the house, it would have easily been No. 1 on Baseball Tonight’s Web Gem segment.
“It’s up there,” smiled Valory on if it was the best catch he’s ever made. “Usually my first step is coming in. I did that this time, but I recovered just quickly enough.”
Valory’s catch ended the top of the sixth inning and saved a run as Cupertino had a runner on second who would have scored easily. That momentum carried over into the next half inning. The Bruins would fail to score, but Kennedy, Elias Verdusco and Justin Cedro all hit the ball hard with Valory adding a nice bunt single.
After a quick one-two-three top of the seventh inning from Penrod, it was Green, Ryan Oeschger and Verdusco in the bottom of the seventh who would set the table for Kennedy’s infamously heroic strikeout. Green walked while Oeschger and Verdusco smoked line-drive singles.