MORAGA, CA – The San Marin Mustangs completed a Cinderella run in the NCS Division III playoffs, defeating Campolindo in the championship game at St. Mary’s College, 8-0, on a hot Saturday afternoon. Matt Lozovoy and Tyler Abell combined for the shutout, and the offense exploded for a six-run fourth inning to give plenty of cushion.
Lozovoy, who scattered four hits and struck out three in four innings, went 3-for-4 at the plate, while his battery mate Connor Moylan had two hits and two runs. Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit, and the team finished with 14 hits overall. The Mustangs also benefited from five Campolindo errors, three of which came in run-scoring innings.
“These guys really stepped it up,” San Marin coach Jamie Vattuone said. “We had a tough out in our league playoff. They bounced back so well and came together. Nine seniors on this team and some of the juniors, they’ve been friends forever playing Little League together coming up. They just decided to come together and start hitting the baseball.”
For No. 2 seed Campolindo (15-11), Ryan Regan had three hits, but the Cougars managed two hits in an inning just once. Starting pitcher Will Bishop mowed down the first five batters of the game, including the first three on caught looking strikeouts; but a seemingly innocuous walk to Josh Franks was the start of an unraveling. After Abell singled, Jason Bernardy slapped a loud double to left which brought in the first run of the game.
In the third, Jake Schmidt reached first on an error after a Moylan single opened up the inning. Following a double steal, Lozovoy’s single to center made it 2-0 Mustangs. Bishop put a stop to the rally thanks in part to a third-to-home fielder’s choice.
With one out and a runner on in the fourth, Caden Franceschini hit a run-scoring double to make it 3-0. Moylan attempted a sacrifice, but Cougars’ first baseman Brett Donat slipped, and the ensuing throw by Bishop missed the mark, allowing Franceschini to score. Schmidt singled after a foul pop-up was dropped, and Lozovoy also had a base hit to score another run and force Bishop’s departure. Kyle Mizell came into pitch, and a big two-run double by Beau McAndrew and then a single by Franks wrapped up the defining inning.
“It makes a lot of things easier when you’re up,” Lozovoy said. “We came out, we wanted to attack them, that’s what we did, and it worked out.”
“They put us on our heels,” Campolindo coach Max Luckhurst said. “You get to the last game and let everything ride.”
Luckhurst is no stranger to postseason baseball, having led the Cougars to four straight section championships from 2010 to 2013, and other appearances including last year’s semifinals as the No. 5 seed.
No. 9 San Marin (17-11-1) would go on to string up five more hits against reliever Evan Yamamoto, but a putout at the plate in the fifth and a double play in the sixth helped the Cougars escape more damage.
“After one time through we started figuring it out and started banging the ball around the yard,” Vattuone added. “We put it in play and put the pressure on. That’s high school baseball right there.”
On the final at bat, pinch hitter John Torchio flied to center, sending the Mustangs and their crowd into delirium. The celebration included a Gatorade shower on Vattuone, who has guided San Marin to four consecutive winning seasons. San Marin knocked out Analy (to whom they lost in the 2017 quarterfinals) in the first round, then stunned No. 1 Miramonte 6-4, and topped No. 5 Bishop O’Dowd 7-4. The Mustangs shared a championship in 2011 with Acalanes; the teams were tied when the game was suspended due to darkness, played at San Marin after rain postponed the match at St. Mary’s College.
This season, San Marin’s championship game was far more straightforward. The temperature nearly reached triple digits and the game was played at noon on the traditional college field. San Marin set the tone early and didn’t look back. At one point in the postgame photos, the players bit the medals; indeed, this time it was all theirs.