Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - May 16, 2014

Gunn earns CCS berth, wants more

Titans' goal was to win an outright title before heading into postseason

by Ari Kaye

Gunn might have a young overall team, but the Titans have become grizzled veterans at playing in tight ballgames. Coming into Tuesday afternoon's matchup against Cupertino, Gunn had played in a total of six one-run contests this season.

With so much experience playing in close games, it was no surprise that Gunn was able to keep its composure with a Central Coast Section berth on the line.

The Titans received seven stellar innings on the mound from their star pitcher, junior Iris Chin, to help them defeat the visiting Pioneers, 3-2, and clinch no worse than a share of the SCVAL El Camino Division championship.

"The No. 1 goal coming into the season was to win league," Gunn head coach Matt Maltz said. "We still aren't quite there yet since our goal is to be sole champions . . . but, I'm very proud of this team. This is where we wanted to be."

With a co-championship secured, Gunn clinches a spot in the upcoming CCS playoffs for the first time since 2010.

With so many young players on the team coming back for next season, Maltz felt it was important for his girls make it to CCS this season to expose them to playoff softball.

"I've got 11 out of 12 players returning next year," Maltz said. "Most of our starters are sophomores and they'll have a lot of experience now. But, our sights are still set on finishing this season out and making a difference."

Chin pitched another brilliant game for the Titans, allowing just one earned run and striking out eight to lower her season ERA to a paltry 1.12. The junior, who had previously no-hit the Pioneers in five innings on April 8, complimented Cupertino on the adjustments they made against her Tuesday.

"They were easily tracking some of my rise balls today," Chin said. "That's what I was getting them out on in the first game so kudos to them for that."

Gunn got on the scoreboard first in the third inning, as junior Natalie Oda led off the inning with a single, and Chin drove her home with a triple to right field. Sophomore Emma Wager followed up with an RBI single to give Gunn an early 2-0 lead.

The Pioneers struck back with an RBI single from sophomore Agnes Jang in the top of the fourth, but Gunn stretched the lead back up to two in the bottom of the fifth as Chin scored from third on a wild pitch.

Cupertino threatened to tie the game up in the top of the sixth inning, as the Pioneers loaded the bases with nobody out. However, Chin pitched through the trouble, retiring the next three batters while allowing only a single run to score on a wild pitch.

In the top of the seventh, Cupertino mounted one last rally against Chin, as Jordan Amick tripled with one out. Chin buckled down once again, striking out Leah Ramirez and coaxing a fly out from Ariana Garcia to end the game.

"She always finds a way to make it work," Maltz said of his pitcher. "Iris has gotten in jams before like that and she's been able to rely on her defense to back her up. And then there are times where she just sucks it up and gets the strikeout that we need."

Although Gunn was able to squeak by with the victory, Chin acknowledged that Gunn will need to do a better job of adding on insurance runs late in games if they are to succeed in future games.

"We need to keep the pressure on for the whole game," Chin said. "In this game we had one inning with two runs, but we just plateaued there. In the future we need to continue pushing."

On Thursday, Gunn squared off at home against crosstown rival Paly. With a Gunn win, or a Mountain View loss against host Milpitas, the Titans won the division title outright.

"We are in control of our own destiny," Maltz said. "It's the first time in a long while that we've been in control of that."

Palo Alto and Gunn shared the El Camino Division title in 2010 and both advanced to CCS. The Vikings (4-7, 14-12) won be playing in the postseason this year, but still can run Gunn's title plans.

Palo Alto celebrated its Senior Day with an 8-3 victory over visiting Fremont on Tuesday. The Vikings overcame a 2-0 deficit in the first inning by scoring four runs in the third and fourth frames.

Sophomore Maddie Martinson had two hits and drove in three runs for Paly while senior Julia Saul and junior Casey Glassford each had two hits and two RBI. Seniors Hannah Bundy, Tori Destefano and Emma Noroian all made the most of their final home game by producing two hits each.

Saul pitched a complete-game seven-hitter, allowing only two earned runs while striking out eight.

(For results of the Paly-Gunn game Thursday, go to www.pasportsonline.com)

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