If Giants baseball is torture, then Oaks baseball must be heart stopping, as we saw another two thrilling games that came right down to the wire in a crucial conference doubleheader bout against the Red Hawks of Simpson University. Junior Chris Mazza once again led the way as Menlo picked up the sweep in the twin bill and the sweep in the weekend series to extend their first place Cascade South lead to four over Patten and now five over Simpson.
The first game was all about the brilliance of Oaks' starting pitcher Sean Sweeney. After Menlo gave the Sonoma native a 3-0 lead in the first behind four straight hits by centerfielder Paul Oakley, leftfielder Collin Forgey, shortstop Chris Mazza, and third baseman Michael Brandi, Sweeney took care of the rest. The sophomore righty tossed six innings of four hit ball while allowing just two earned and striking out three to pick up his sixth win of the season, giving him a tie with sophomore Derek Martinez for the team lead. "We wanted to establish the fastball early and that worked well, and then mix in more off speed pitches the second time through the order," commented Sweeney on his outstanding performance. "Also putting a three spot on the board in the first was key, it was nice to see the bats get out early for us." Sweeney then handed the ball to Mazza who recorded his fifth save of the season, and second one in the series with a clean 1-2-3 seventh inning to give Menlo the 3-2 "W."
The two teams came out in the second game of the twin bill, saving the best for last. Menlo took a 4-1 lead into the top of the eighth inning thanks to the stellar performance by starting pitcher Kyer Vega. Vega pitched around a leadoff home run by Simpson second baseman Angel Marti to give the Oaks seven innings of four hit baseball, allowing just that one homerun to help preserve the three run lead.
With the 4-1 advantage, Menlo headed into the eighth inning which has been somewhat of an adventure all season long. Coming into the frame, the Oaks were outscored 35-14 in the inning and have surrendered at least one run in their last five eight inning outings, giving up two or more runs in four of those five those frames. Once again the struggles continued as Red Hawks' leftfielder Garret Barnett blasted a go-ahead grand slam off freshman reliever John Schott to give Simpson an unlikely 5-4 lead. Menlo threatened in the bottom of the inning but could not score, so the game entered the ninth with the Red Hawks clinging to a one run advantage.
Schott pitched a scoreless top of the inning which gave the Oaks an opportunity to stage a dramatic ninth inning rally. With one out and nobody one, Collin Forgey struck first with a single to left off senior starting pitcher Dustin Stoddard who was looking for an unbelievable complete game performance. Up next was Chris Mazza who came into the at bat with a reputation of being a Red Hawks' killer. Mazza had already hit two home runs, drove in eight runs, and saved three games in the five previous meetings against Simpson this season and once again he played the role of hero.
The junior from Clayton, CA lined a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a single allowing Forgey to advance to third, and Mazza reached second on an error by centerfielder Daveron Ross. Then after Simpson elected to walk sophomore Michael Brandi intentionally to load the bases, first baseman Will Pierce was hit with a Stoddard offering to tie things up at five with the winning run now 90 feet away for junior Jonathan Ochoa. Ochoa skied one out to right field which allowed Mazza to bring home the winning run and just like that Menlo once again walked off with a 6-5 win to complete the series sweep.
After the game the adrenaline of the series spilled over to Oaks' Manager Matt Daily who talked about the exciting four game battle. "It's really hard to take four games in a weekend and we were real fortunate to do it," claimed Daily. "The theme of the series was resiliency and this weekend showed our team is really learning how to find a way to be resilient. The series had a lot of emotion and Mazza helped pick us up on the mound and at the plate."
Menlo will complete their season series against the Red Hawks as the two teams will square off in a doubleheader this Wednesday April 13 at Cartan Field. The first game is slated to get underway at 1:00pm.