Palo Alto baseball coach Erick Raich had plenty to celebrate on Friday as his Vikings wrapped up the regular season with a 17-3 romp over visiting Santa Clara.
The triumph, coupled with a 5-3 Wilcox victory over Homestead, gave the Vikings (11-3, 16-11) the SCVAL De Anza Division title. Wilcox and Homestead both finished 10-4, as did Saratoga.
The title-clinching win also gave Raich his 100th victory in four years as Paly's head coach.
"No way, really!" Raich said when told of his milestone win. "I had no idea that was my 100th win since being at Palo Alto. That's crazy, I figured I still had some games to go before that happened. Man it seemed just like yesterday I started coaching at PA."
It has added up quickly for Raich, who went 29-4 his first season and followed that with a 28-9 mark in 2011. Paly went 27-7 last season. Most important, the Vikings have reached the Central Coast Section finals twice and semifinals once in the past three years. And now Paly has won four straight division titles.
While the Vikings have struggled through 11 losses this season -- most during a very tough nonleague schedule that included games against St. Francis, Serra and Bellarmine -- Paly won the games that mattered and at the right time.
Friday was another good example as the Vikings finished up with a 17-hit attack and a pitching effort that limited the Bruins to just three hits.
"Today was good day from a standpoint that we secured the league title," Raich said. "We also had great at-bats and were able to throw five different pitchers, which got them work in live game situations. We are going to need all of our arms ready for next week."
The postseason begins with the De Anza Division playoffs. As of Friday evening, Raich still wasn't sure of the schedule.
"I don't know who we play next week," he admitted. "There was a three-way tie for second place with Wilcox, Homestead, Saratoga so I don't know what the tiebreaker will be for them. I do know that we play Tuesday at home, Thursday away and Friday at home, if necessary."
While Danny Erlich, Friday's winner, has joined with Rohit Ramkumar to be a solid one-two combination in the starting rotation, Raich has been able to spread the experience around.
"Pitching isn't really a concern," he said. "We don't have one dominant guy but we have about 3-4 guys that we feel confident in. I've been more concerned with our defense. We haven't played very good catch this year and that's been our real bread and butter the last three years. "
There were no problems Friday as Paly grabbed a 2-0 lead after one inning before blowing the game open with seven runs in the second.
Austin Poore had a sacrifice fly in the first and later ripped an inside-the-park grand slam to finish with five RBI, Sean Harvey tripled, Rowen Thompson and James Foug each had three hits and Isaac Feldstein had three RBI and two hits.
Erlich pitched four innings of two-hit ball with six strikeouts to get the win.
In Atherton, starting pitcher Erik Amundson allowed just two hits and one earned run over the first six innings and received plenty of offensive support as host Menlo-Atherton defeated Half Moon Bay, 10-4, Friday afternoon. With the victory, the Bears earned a split in their two-game PAL Bay Division series with the Cougars, improving their overall record to 15-8 and league mark to 5-5. Half Moon Bay fell to 14-9 and 4-6.
Amundson carried a no-hitter into the top of the fifth before surrendering a single to Half Moon Bay's leadoff hitter in the inning. The junior right-hander struck out eight and walked just one to raise his record to 5-2 , while lowering his ERA to 2.17. Amundson also enjoyed a productive day at the plate, driving in three runs on a ground-out, sacrifice fly, and infield single. Shortstop Alex Aguiar also contributed three RBI while going 2-for-3. Aguiar is now hitting .349 for the season with 15 RBI, while Amundson is batting .339 with 13 RBI.
M-A collected 13 hits, led by catcher Charles Grose's 3-for-4 performance, which raised the senior catcher's batting average to .274. Meanwhile, center fielder Charlie Cain went 2-for-3 (including a double), with a stolen base and one RBI. Brett Moriarty (single) and Josh Gabriel (triple) also drove in runs for the Bears.
M-A took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, highlighted by consecutive RBI singles from Aguiar and Moriarty. Moriarty is now hitting .405 overall (.450 in league play), with a team-leading 20 RBI. The Bears extended their lead to 5-0 in the second inning on Gabriel's RBI triple to right field and Amundson's run-scoring ground-out. Following a 1-for-3 performance, Gabriel is now hitting .350 in 20 at-bats. Cain's RBI double and Amundson's sacrifice fly to center made it 7-0 after three innings.
After Half Moon Bay cut M-A's lead to 7-3 in the fifth inning, the Bears countered with three runs in the bottom of the sixth, keyed by Amundson's RBI infield single and Aguiar's two-run single to left. Aguiar closed out the game for M-A, pitching in relief of Amundson. He allowed one run and struck out one Half Moon Bay batter.