Baseball: Balers get payback; advance to CCS semis

Josh Harris had the key hit of the game, a bases-clearing double in the first inning to help propel the Balers to a 7-0 win over Palma last Saturday in a CCS Open Division quarterfinal.

The San Benito High baseball team finds itself in a familiar position: In the semifinals of the Central Coast Section playoffs. The No. 7 seed Haybalers (18-7) play No. 11 Bellarmine (20-9) on Wednesday at San Jose Municipal Stadium at 7 p.m.
The Open Division semifinal is a rematch of last year, when San Benito ripped the Bells 13-3 in a first-round contest that was called after five innings due to the mercy rule. It’s hard to imagine either team running away this time, as both teams come equipped with stellar pitching and a rich history of success.
“Bellarmine is solid again,” Balers coach Billy Aviles said. “They’re what you expect from a WCAL (West Catholic Athletic League) team: disciplined, focused and solid all the way around.”
Aviles could’ve been describing his own team as well. In a 7-0 drubbing of rival Palma in the quarterfinals last Saturday, San Benito hitters finished with just three hits but drew 12 walks. Drew Williams produced two of the team’s three hits, and Josh Harris struck the big blow, a bases-clearing double in the first inning that essentially put the game away.
That’s because the Balers received another magnificent start from Tyler Triano, who allowed just one hit in 5 1/3 innings. Ryan Jameson pitched the final 1 2/3 innings to put the exclamation point on a victory that carried more significance than usual. Eleven days earlier, Palma beat San Benito 4-2 to clinch at least a share of the Monterey Bay League’s Gabilan Division championship.
Despite Palma not clinching the title outright until two days later, it made sure to let San Benito know what had just happened. The Balers had to watch as Palma formed a dog pile on their home field. This was just the second year in the last 12 San Benito has not shared or won the league title outright.
However, San Benito got payback and then some by ending Palma’s season in dominating fashion.
“The kids did a great job of being disciplined,” Aviles said.
The Balers reached the Division I finals in 2011 and 2012 and the Open Division semifinals in 2013. It’s quite an achievement considering they’re in a field featuring the best public and private teams in the section. San Benito is peaking at the perfect time, and it will need to be at its absolute best against a Bellarmine squad that is coming off an impressive 6-0 win over Terra Nova.
The Balers have received contributions from a number of unheralded players. Harris, who is the No. 7 hitter in the lineup, produced the key blow against Palma. Jameson, a sophomore pitcher, has been nothing short of fantastic whenever Aviles has brought him in.
“Ryan has been pretty darn good,” Aviles said. “He’s got a fastball, curveball and slider, and he throws all of them for strikes. There’s a lot to like about that.”

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