PALO ALTO — A younger team might have panicked Saturday. A younger team might have looked at the dramatically changed scoreboard and sulked its way to a season-ending defeat.
Palo Alto is not a younger team.
The Vikings led by seven runs in the sixth inning of their Central Coast Section Division I baseball quarterfinal. Carlmont scored eight in the visitor’s half of the sixth and retired Palo Alto in order in the home half of the frame.
Down to its final three outs, third-seeded Palo Alto set the stage for sophomore Charlie Bates, and the kid who has already committed to the university across the street — Stanford — hit a one-out single through the middle to drive in the tying and winning runs.
Pandemonium followed as Palo Alto celebrated an 11-10 victory over a team that deserved as much applause as the one that will play next week in the semifinals.
“A lot of times an eight-run inning like that might kill you, take the energy out of you,” Palo Alto star Henry Bolte said. “We just get back to work once we get back on offense. We do our best under pressure like that. Everyone comes through.”
On a hot day, sixth-seeded Carlmont trailed 9-2 when the sixth inning began. The Scots (20-7-1) scored one run on Aidan Kurt’s single and four more on Carson Vance’s grand slam over the left-field fence.
Carlmont did not stop.
The next two batters singled and the ninth hitter in the order — Tyler Pechetti — drove in two runs with a hit to center. Tanner Van Why’s single gave the Scots the lead, 10-9.
“It’s a special group,” Carlmont coach Ryan Hamilton said. “We’re one of the few public schools where we’re at that lifts all season. We’ve been putting in a lot more work than probably what’s been done in the past. It was our belief that no matter what was going to happen, we’re the team that works harder than everybody else and we’re going to just grind at-bats and we’re going to find a way to win at the end of the day.
“That was our belief in the first inning. And in the sixth inning, it didn’t matter what we were down by. We had that belief that we’re going to win.”
Inside the Palo Alto dugout, coach Pete Fukuhara didn’t say anything when the Carlmont rally finally ended.
“We have some older guys, a lot of seniors, and I trust them,” Fukuhara said. “Our leadership is incredible on this team. They find a way to rise to the occasion.
“Today was a game of momentum. We had the momentum early. They captured it late, and then we kind of took it back in the seventh. That’s a good ball club over there. One through nine, those guys swing the bats.”
Three outs from completing the stunning comeback, Carlmont faced Palo Alto’s Nos. 9, 1, and 2 batters to start the seventh.
Zach Hayward, No. 9 in the order, opened the inning with a single to left. Bolte was next. All the Texas commit had done Saturday was double, homer, single, and steal two bases.
He drew a walk.
Hayward and Bolte advanced to second and third on a wild pitch. With one out, Bates stepped into the box and saw a steady dose of off-speed pitches.
When the fastball came, he knocked it through the middle for the winner.
Charlie Bates’ two-run single sends Palo Alto to the CCS D1 semifinals with an 11-10 win over Carlmont | @leftwich @henrybolte2 @Danny_Peters10 @PalyAthletics @VytasMazeika @JensenPhil pic.twitter.com/dlHIBw0Uxo
— Darren Sabedra (@DarrenSabedra) May 21, 2022
“Going into that inning, all of us knew we were going to win the game,” Bates said. “I was lucky enough to get in that position where I could do it for us. I think if you put any of our guys up there, they would have done the same thing.”
Bates, clearly wise beyond his years, knew what to look for as he got deep into the count.
“My approach is just fight off that off-speed and wait for that fastball, which I eventually got,” he said. “They got me with that outside slider the pitch before, and they were going to try and go from the high and up. I just hit the ball.”
And when he did, Palo Alto (25-5) had earned a date with old nemesis Valley Christian in the semifinals Wednesday at Excite Ballpark in San Jose.