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June 28, 2022

Mustangs power through Gunn to claim D-VI crown | CCS baseball

MVC relies on all phases of the game for program’s first-ever title

SAN JOSE—It seemed like a third time really was the charm for the Monte Vista Christian baseball team after the first two valiant efforts for a Central Coast Section title ended heartbreaks. 

Junior second baseman Cannon Silva and his fellow teammates rushed to the middle of the infield after the final out was made as the top-seeded Mustangs defeated No. 2 Gunn High, 5-3, to capture the Division VI title.

Silva hoisted the trophy near home plate inside of Excite Ballpark, home of the San Jose Giants, becoming part of the first group in the program’s history to do so.

He emphasized that this championship win wasn’t just for them, though. 

It was also for the players and teams in the past who made it to this point but never got the chance to taste victory.  

Including his brother, Marshall Silva, who was part of the 2019 squad that lost a heartbreaker to The King’s Academy, 3-2, in the D-III final. Prior to that, MVC lost to Palma, 7-6, in the 2009 D-III final.

“I wanted to get this back for him,” Silva said.

There was a sense of redemption for Silva, who said he was going to playfully rub his new CCS champion medal in his brother’s face.

“We left a legacy at Monte Vista,” he said. “I’m going to see that banner if my kids ever come to Monte Vista. I can tell my kids that I won that banner.”

Silva had a decent afternoon with one run scored and was part of perhaps the biggest defensive play of the day [*cue ESPN’s SportsCenter jingle]. 

Silva showed off his “cannon” of an arm in the sixth inning with a precise throw to third baseman Erik Caballero, who tagged out a potential run on the scoreboard for the Titans. 

Gunn senior Nathan Watkins was looking to set himself up in scoring position after he hit a bomb over the head of right fielder Gavin Allen, who lost sight of the ball for a split second.

Allen had to chase the ball down but without any hesitation he threw it to the cutoff man, Silva, who then threw a laser beam from nearly 200 feet to third baseman Erik Caballero for the tag out.

MVC first-year skipper Johnny Ramirez said they had the hammer to the nail and that play was the final swing to seal the deal.

“I think the turning point, honestly, was that cut off throw,” Ramirez said. “That’s the game right there. They get that guy to third, it’s 5-3, they get another run, it’s 5-4 and they’re feeling good. But I thought once we got that, that was it.” 

Silva said he had a gut feeling that Watkins was going to take off on him and in his mind he dared him to do it.

“If I didn’t make that throw, I don’t know what would’ve happened,” Silva said.

Ramirez, who was doused with a water cooler bath, walked around with the CCS trophy and kissed it like a prized possession. 

“How do I explain this one? It all came out at the end when we got the last out, I literally busted crying,” he said. “The adversity we had at the beginning of the year…we were thinking, I don’t know how we’re going to get in.”

MVC (21-8-1), which tied with Alisal High for third place in the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s Mission Division, snuck into the playoffs with a non-league win against TKA in the regular season finale. 

After their win on Wednesday, a handful of Mustangs players including senior catcher Jake Brothers took off their uniforms in exchange for a more casual beach look.

It was almost representative of how they played throughout the postseason: cool, calm and collected.  

“They were relaxed in the first inning, they came out swinging,” Ramirez said. “I think that just kind of calmed everybody down. Once we started swinging the bat, everybody said we can get after this guy…it was a fun time, it was a good time tonight.”

Brothers, who committed to play next season at CSU Monterey Bay, joined the varsity team as a freshman. 

Him and his brother, Luke, were part of the team that lost to TKA in the D-III finals.

“We ended up losing, so winning today was a great thing,” Brothers said. “We were fighting for it, we were trying to get in the playoffs and to finally get in and win a championship is everything for us.”

Junior pitcher Jojo Keldsen recorded the complete game win for MVC, which extended its win-streak to six including three in the playoffs. 

“We’re hyped, I’m pumped,” he said. “Those last three outs, I was trying so hard not to smile. Once I got in my groove, I knew we were going to win.”

MVC showed no mercy in a 10-0 win over No. 8 Summit Shasta in last weekend’s quarterfinals, then they suffered a bit of scare after a close 4-3 victory against No. 5 Stevenson in Tuesday’s semifinals.

MVC struck first on Wednesday with three runs in the opening frame led by Brothers, who crushed a two-run double to drive in seniors Mark Spohn and Jacob Woods. 

Shortly later, pinch runner Will Mesa came across home plate to give MVC a 3-0 lead going into the second.

The Titans responded with two runs in the top of the second. Ted Jung scored from second base when Ryan Barahona reached base safely on a grounder to first. 

Sean Li drew a walk and later scored on a base hit by Charlie Deggeller. 

“In the second [inning], I couldn’t find it. I walked three people and then throughout the game I was finding my groove,” Keldsen said. “A few missed calls, I thought, but it was alright. We had to bounce back.”

MVC’s defense began to play a big part starting in the top of the fourth when senior Mark Spohn dove for a catch in left center, losing his hat in the process. 

“I thought it was the centerfielder’s ball, he was coming up. Mark just comes flying, woo,” Keldsen said.

The Mustangs gave themselves a bit more of a cushion when Woods, who was lights out on the mound in Tuesday’s semifinals win over Stevenson, hit an RBI single.

Shortly after, an errant throw to third base allowed Silva to reach home plate to extend the lead at 5-2.

After the big relay throw from Allen to Silva to Caballero, MVC first baseman Luke Hollingsworth came through with a big defensive play in the sixth with a spectacular catch along the netting in foul territory. 

Keldsen retired the final five batters en route to a CCS title and a spot in the inaugural CIF NorCal Regional Championships.

Ramirez said there was already an identity established with MVC, he just wanted to be more aggressive in the way they play the game and allow the kids to have fun. 

“This team just needed to relax and I think that’s what they were missing the last couple of years,” he said. “Like I call them, ‘You guys are a bunch of Mustangs that just want to run.’ They put the pressure on teams, when we needed runs they’d steal bags as we did today.”

Ramirez said the scary part about this team is they continue to improve on a daily basis. Plus, they have three ace pitchers left in Woods, junior Dylan Hawkins and senior Andre Moretti.

NorCal seeding takes place Sunday and first-round action begins Tuesday at 4 p.m.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Silva said. “I’m just looking forward to playing, continue the season. With all these seniors, they deserve it.” 

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