Palo Alto clears Valley Christian hurdle to reach CCS DI baseball final

SAN JOSE – After years of playoff disappointment on the baseball diamond, most recently to powerhouse Valley Christian, Palo Alto got another swing Wednesday.

This time, the Vikings did not miss.

Danny Peters slugged a two-run homer in a three-run first inning, igniting a keepsake day for the Palo Alto senior, as the Vikings ended Valley Christian’s four-season reign atop the Central Coast Section with a 7-0 victory in the Division I semifinals at Excite Ballpark.

Palo Alto will return to the venue formerly known as San Jose Municipal Stadium on Saturday to play St. Francis or Bellarmine for the title.

Peters made sure the third-seeded Vikings got there.

In addition to clearing the left-field fence in the first inning, he doubled, singled, knocked in four runs and pitched 5 ⅔ scoreless innings.

“Honestly, it was kind of payback time,” Peters said. “They’ve ended ours three years in a row now. It was time.”

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – MAY 25: Palo Alto’s Danny Peters (28) is congratulated by Andre Hyrkin (11) after scoring on an RBI double by Dominic De Feo (4) against Valley Christian in the third inning of the Central Coast Section Division I baseball semifinals at Excite Ballpark in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25, 2022. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Palo Alto (26-5) never let second-seeded Valley get going, taking charge in the first inning, widening the advantage to six with three in the third and finishing the scoring with another RBI from Peters in the fifth.

Along the way, the Vikings were superb in the field.

In the first, shortstop Xavier Esquer robbed Quinten Marsch of a hit and somehow fired a dart to second base for an inning-ending forceout.

In the third, third baseman Russ Filter made a great stab on a sharply-hit ball by Easton Kreshel, did a pirouette and fired a strike to first for the out.

In the fifth, second baseman Charlie Bates robbed Marsh again and threw to first for an inning-ending out. Valley had two on.

Then in the sixth, Henry Bolte, who had a rare hitless game, made a diving catch in center field to prevent a potential late-inning rally.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - MAY 25: Palo Alto's Zach Hayward (5) makes a catch for an out against Valley Christian High during the Central Coast Section Division I baseball semifinals game at Excite Ballpark in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25 , 2022. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – MAY 25: Palo Alto’s Zach Hayward (5) makes a catch for an out against Valley Christian High during the Central Coast Section Division I baseball semifinals game at Excite Ballpark in San Jose, Calif., on Wednesday, May 25 , 2022. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

“Our defense was incredible,” coach Pete Fukuhara said. “Not to take anything away from what Danny did because it was an absolutely special performance, but we had guys making plays. We’ve got guys diving in center field. We’ve got guys taking away foul-ball doubles. Very, very good team effort, top to bottom.”

And one that showed how much Palo Alto learned from the previous round. In the quarterfinals against Carlmont on Saturday, the Vikings led by seven runs in the sixth inning.

Carlmont scored eight in the inning to take the lead. But Palo Alto survived 11-10 when it scored two in the bottom of the seventh.

“Listen, Carlmont taught us a lesson,” Fukuhara said. “We’re not taking anything for granted. We played every pitch of the game today.”

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