Page One

’Jackets slaughter De Anza in finale; ACCAL title still in doubt

By Jared GreenDaily Planet Staff
Saturday May 18, 2002

Complicated tie-breakers keep Berkeley in suspense as NCS playoffs loom 


The Berkeley High baseball team won its last game of the regular season on Friday, avenging an earlier loss to De Anza with an 11-0 demolishing of the Dons on their home turf in Richmond. But the win left the ’Jackets deadlocked with El Cerrito at the top of the ACCAL standings, and it’s yet to be determined which team wins the league championship through a complicated set of tie-breakers. 

Berkeley head coach Tim Moellering pored over the ACCAL rules on Thursday night and thought he figured that Berkeley had tie-breakers over both El Cerrito and Encinal, which were tied with Berkeley to start Friday’s games. El Cerrito beat the Jets, 5-4, to tie Berkeley at 11-3 in league play and 18-6 overall. 

“I went over the rules very carefully, and unless I’ve got a game result wrong I’m sure we’re the champions,” said Moellering, who pointed to his team’s sweep of fourth-place Pinole Valley as the determining factor. Berkeley and El Cerrito split with each other in league play, although the ’Jackets did beat the Gauchos in the San Marin Easter Tournament, a result Moellering said wouldn’t play into the tie-breakers. They both also split with Encinal, which ended the league season at 10-4. 

Moellering said the ACCAL office would have to decide the league champion before Sunday’s NCS seeding meeting. 

Declaring a titlist is pretty much a matter of semantics, as Berkeley and El Cerrito are likely to make the playoffs even without an automatic bid. But being named champs would give Berkeley a big leg up in the North Coast Section playoffs, as league champions get preference for a home game in the first round. If the ’Jackets do get a home game, it would likely be held at Cal’s Evans Diamond. 

“That’s very important. Just having the last at-bats is important in the playoffs,” said Moellering who expects a No. 6 seed in the NCS. 

No matter who is named league champion, Friday’s game was undeniably important for the ’Jackets. Other than the standings, there was a little matter of revenge for a shocking 4-1 defeat the Dons (14-9, 7-7) had dealt them in April. But they caught a break when De Anza’s John Schlager, who had shut them down in the first meeting, was ruled out because of tendinitis in his pitching arm. That left the mound work in the hands of Clint Tanaka, usually a reliever. 

Tanaka started the game inauspiciously, walking leadoff hitter Lee Franklin. The Berkeley second baseman stole second and took third on an error, but it looked as if Tanaka might escape the jam when he struck out DeAndre Miller and got Clinton Calhoun to pop out on the infield. But Matt Toma took care of Franklin and more, launching a two-run bomb onto the hill in leftfield, his first home run of the season. 

“We really didn’t want to come out here and lose to these guys again,” Toma said. “It never hurts to jump out on top early.” 

Berkeley would get four more runs off of Tanaka in the third inning, stringing together five singles. Franklin again got things started with a one-out single, then Miller did the same, and a double steal put them on second and third. Calhoun then dealt the big blow, although he did so by bunting the ball just 15 feet. Tanaka fielded the ball and thought about trying to get Franklin at the plate, then thought better of it and threw weakly to first, too late to get Calhoun. Miller never hestitated rounding third, however, and scored without a throw. 

“That squeeze broke (De Anza’s) backs,” Moellering said. “They just fell apart after that.” 

No kidding. After fielding immaculately in their win over the ’Jackets and just one error to that point in the game, the Dons made seven errors in the next three innings, handing Berkeley six unearned runs and making themselves the victims of the dreaded 10-run rule. 

Meanwhile, Moellering was rolling out his seemingly endless line of left-handed pitchers to shut down the De Anza offense. Senior Cole Stipovich started the game and worked out of jams in the second and third innings without surrendering a run, but Moellering decided to take advantage of the huge lead to get his seldom-used bullpen some work. He lifted Stipovich with two outs in the fourth in favor of fireballer Ethan Friedman, who wrapped three strikeouts around a single, then brought in Andre Sternberg for the final out, another strikeout. 

“The problem is that we have a lot of good pitchers, and they haven’t all gotten enough work with Sean (Souders) and Cole hogging all the innings,” Moellering said. 

For his part, Stipovich wasn’t happy about leaving what could be his last high-school start with a shutout intact, he understood why Moellering made the decision. 

“I know we have a great pitching staff from top to bottom, and we need to work everybody because we might need them,” Stipovich said. “You never know what will happen when you get into the playoffs.”