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BASEBALL: Comeback Sends Menlo to Title Game

Knights rally from deficits of 5-0 and 8-2 to stun Carmel in nine-inning semifinal thriller; defending champions to face Santa Cruz in Central Coast Section Division III championship on Saturday.

The Score: Menlo 9, Carmel 8 (9 innings).

The Star: Menlo School freshman second baseman Mikey Diekroeger twice delivered in the clutch as the Knights shocked Carmel (26-4) with a six-run comeback to return to the Central Coast Section Division III championship game by prevailing in extra innings. After kicking off a six-run outburst that would tie the semifinal with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, Diekroeger drove in the go-ahead run in the ninth with a bases-loaded, no-out sacrifice fly on Tuesday at San Jose Municipal Stadium. Given the lead, reliever Jacob Bruml promptly retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to lock up the victory.

The Turning Point: Carmel’s defensive meltdown in the sixth. No. 3 seed Menlo rallied from an 8-2 deficit at the start of the inning to pull even as the second-seeded Padres gave new meaning to throwing the ball around the horn (each infielder committed an error). Thanks to those four miscues, six straight Menlo batters reached base. Robert Wickers hit a two-RBI double to leftfield and Freddy Avis tied the game by greeting reliever Robbie Kovach with a booming two-run double to left-center.

The Quote: “That was scary. It was a little nerve-wracking. … Coach (Craig) Schoof said, ‘Have the heart of champions and don’t die.’ … Hopefully we’re going to keep this momentum going until Saturday and get another title.” – Menlo senior Jacob Bruml, on the situation his team faced when trailing late against Carmel and the significance of the Knights’ comeback.

What’s Next? Championship Saturday. Menlo (25-5) returns to San Jose Municipal Stadium with a shot at its second straight Division III title. On Saturday at 4 p.m., the Knights meet No. 8 seed Santa Cruz. The Cardinals (15-14) steamrolled fifth-seeded Half Moon Bay 12-1 in .

The Bottom Line: Thanks to a stunning comeback, Menlo stands one win away from the program’s fifth CCS championship. And that gut-check rally should send the Knights’ confidence soaring.

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Menlo School 9, Carmel 8 (9 innings)

M – 000 0026 001 – 9 9 3

C – 302 030 000 – 8 11 5

WP: Bruml (10-2). LP: Woodward.

3B: Pearson (C). 2B: Bruml, Avis (M); Schneider, Bifano, Pearson (C). 3 hits: Bruml (M); Bifano (C). 2 hits: Batchelder (M); Pearson, Schneider (C). 2 RBI: Avis, Diekroeger, Wickers (M); Tapson (C).

Records: Menlo 25-5. Carmel 26-4.

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