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’Jackets stay perfect in ACCAL with Stipovich gem

By Richard Nybakken Daily Planet Correspondent
Saturday April 20, 2002

The Berkeley High baseball juggernaut continued to roll over opponents Friday afternoon, riding a two-hit gem from starting pitcher Cole Stipovich to a convincing 5-1 victory against El Cerrito High. 

The crafty senior southpaw escaped some uncharacteristically shoddy fielding in the first inning and a slight bout with wildness in the sixth as the Yellowjackets (14-4 overall, 6-0 ACCAL) ran their unbeaten string to 12 with the win. El Cerrito, which had hoped to join the ‘Jackets atop the league standings with a win, fell to 4-2 in ACCAL play and 11-5 overall. 

Two weeks after Berkeley trounced a less than full-strength El Cerrito squad 12-2 in the San Marin Tournament, an anticipated showdown between two of the league’s better teams never materialized, as the hot Berkeley bats once again cuffed around an opposing moundsman. 

Rightfielder Jeremy LeBeau, who reached on an error and scored in the second inning, delivered the knockout blow in the fifth, a booming triple to deep centerfield that plated two runs. Centerfielder Bennie Goldenberg added two hits, a run and an RBI. 

Gaucho ace Kenny Salyer, a burly senior who will attend San Jose State University on a baseball scholarship next fall, surrendered five runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings. 

Though some Berkeley players speculated that El Cerrito had deliberately rested key players during the tournament in an effort to surprise the ‘Jackets during the regular season, head coach Tim Moellering said his team hadn’t paid attention to the rumors. 

“We didn’t focus on that too much,” Moellering said. “We consider El Cerrito to be one of the better teams in the league, and we knew they were going to come at us with a better team than at the tournament.” 

El Cerrito coach Brian Nichols said the difference came down to fundamentals. 

“They just executed a little bit better offensively and defensively than we did,” he said. “You can’t give a good team opportunities like that and expect to win. Kenny (Salyer) threw good, but we just didn’t execute, plain and simple.” 

Whatever the cause, the final result obscured a worrisome start for the Yellowjackets, who allowed two of the first four Gaucho batters to reach base on misplayed ground balls. Stipovich never abandoned his game plan, however, inducing centerfielder Jamont’e Cox to ground to first to end the threat. 

The ’Jackets then promptly jumped on top in the second inning. With one out, LeBeau struck a high chopper to third. El Cerrito third baseman Randy Minix rushed his throw, skipping it past first baseman Jake Lucas and allowing LeBeau to scamper to second. 

After a ground out, Goldenberg hit a line drive double over the head of stumbling leftfielder Josh Harvey, scoring LeBeau. Sam Geaney then lashed a fly ball just inches past the outstretched glove of rightfielder James Cannon, driving in Goldenberg with the second Berkeley run. 

From there, it was all Stipovich. Changing speeds with a funky three-quarter delivery, the ‘Jackets number two hurler kept the El Cerrito hitters off balance, inducing numerous ground balls and relying on a rejuvenated Berkeley defense. 

The sneaky lefty finally appeared spent in the sixth. After he walked two of the first three batters, Moellering made the kind of slow walk out to the pitcher’s mound which usually signals the end of a hurler’s day. 

“I thought he was losing it because Cole has outstanding control,” Moellering said later. “I was stalling for time, and told him to assume this was his last hitter.” 

The unflappable Stipovich apparently received a different message. 

“I’m pretty sure I wasn’t tired,” he said of his sixth-frame wildness. “I might have been overthrowing. Coach came out and slowed me down a little bit.” 

Stipovich needed only five pitches to dispose of the next two hitters, both on ground balls, squeezing out of the two-on, one-out jam allowing only one run. The lefty then finished up strong in the seventh, retiring three El Cerrito batters in order to put the game in the books.