McGarry powers Knights to second CCS championship in 1-0 win over Burlingame

Great pitching from Griff McGarry and a stellar play on the base paths fueled the Knights to their second straight CCS championship. Staff photo by Emilio Simbeck.  

By Emilio Simbeck

Behind 6 and 2/3 stellar innings from senior pitcher Griff McGarry and the defense behind him, the Knights captured their second straight Division II CCS Championship, defeating Burlingame High School 1-0.

On this beautiful Saturday afternoon, everything seemed to go well for McGarry, who has played an instrumental role in both championship runs for the Knights since transferring to the school in his junior year. McGarry went nearly the entire game, but was forced to leave the mound after reaching his pitch count of 110.

After being pulled, McGarry received a standing ovation from the crowd, which was very well deserved after throwing a two-hit shutout. Quickly getting back to work, McGarry swapped places at shortstop with sophomore standout Justin Nam, who took the hill for the final batter. Nam forced a weak dribbler to second, which was then thrown to first to retire the side. A dogpile filled with cheers, tears and flying caps ensued.

After three defensively-dominated innings for both the Panthers and the Knights, Menlo’s first signs of life came in the top of the fourth. Nam singled to get on base, where Peterson did his best to drive him home. Peterson singled to center, and Nam came speeding around third headed straight for home plate. Centerfielder Sauvan Brown made an incredible throw to the plate, and in a bang-bang play, Nam was ruled out after he was tagged sliding.

The succeeding inning, the Knights finally got on the scoresheet, with what proved to be the game winning run. Freshman Kevin Alarcon got in scoring position by stealing second base after being walked with one out. Senior Justin Kasser then advanced Alarcon to third by singling out to left field. With runners on the corners, Kasser took off for second base, forcing the catcher to make a decision. Opting to try and throw him out, the catcher popped up and threw to second base, enabling Alarcon to make a run for the plate. Alarcon scored easily.

Repeating as CCS champions is a terrific feat, and it was all made possible by another strong senior class and underclassmen stepping up when it mattered most. “Returning your two starting pitchers is a really big deal,” senior catcher and captain Ben Somorjai said. Chandler Yu and Griff McGarry now both have CCS finals victories on the mound, and combined for a phenomenal regular and postseason rotation. “Those guys really carried us the whole year.” 

“Our defense has carried us all year long and it was no different in this game. [Alarcon stealing home] was all we needed. We knew if we got up early, we would have a really good chance,” Somorjai said.

Although it was a day of celebration for the Knights, there was a grim moment early on in the game. A pitch from McGarry was fouled off, heading straight towards the Menlo dugout. Junior Eric Chang, whose head was popping out from behind the dugout fence, was left without time to react, and was struck in the head by the line drive.

Chang was taken to the hospital by an ambulance, and had to undergo emergency surgery that night to help mitigate bleeding in his brain. He is now doing better and is currently stable in the ICU, and will be moved to regular care in the near future.

Looking back on the year, McGarry couldn’t be prouder of his two years on the team. “Everyone on the team stepped up, these guys love the game of baseball and supporting one another.” McGarry said. “It’s a team effort. It’s not just one guy. Whether its Somorjai calling a good game behind the plate, my coach coming out to calm me down, or my defense stepping up behind me. Just knowing that these guys have my backs and I have theirs goes a long way.” McGarry said.

Moving forward, the Knights will look to many underclassmen for leadership, who will need to play another pivotal role should the Knights wish to make another deep playoff push. McGarry, who knows a thing or two about success, had words of wisdom for the future of the program. “Leadership, being grateful for what you have, and working hard no matter what will take you far. It did for us this year,” McGarry said.

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