SAN FRANCISCO — Lowell (San Francisco)
senior Elijah Saunders
barely wiped the smashed cupcakes from his face following a 7-0 San Francisco Section championship victory over Washington (San Francisco)
The standout right-hand pitcher and left-hand hitter just let all the sweet morsels soak in.
It was tasty enough to pitch a four-hitter with eight strikeouts and lead the Cardinals to their 18th section title but first since 2008. Further flavorful was lashing three doubles, including a key two-run blast down the right field line in the four-run fourth.
But to do all of it AT&T Park, home of the World Series champion Giants. ... Saunders definitely enjoyed his cake and ate some too.
"This was definitely the best game I've ever had in my life," Saunders said. "Maybe not the best in terms of performance, but considering the situation and the place, it's hard to beat this."
Combined with Saunders pitching and the team's timely hitting and superb defense, it was nearly impossible for Washington (14-14) to beat the round-robin champion Cardinals (25-6).
Sophomore shortstop Joshua Ng
and senior catcher Jake Simons
each played superb defensive games, helping Saunders to improve to 7-1 and lowering his ERA to 0.72. Simons threw out two runners at second base — one on a caught stealing — and he made a spectacular diving catch in foul territory of a bunt attempt by Jay Miller
Ng handled both the putouts at second base and made a couple of nice plays from shortstop early, allowing Saunders to pick up steam late. He struck out six in the final three frames, including the side in the seventh.
Asked how he didn't get overwhelmed with the experience of pitching at AT&T, Saunders said: "Of course it's exciting to be here - amazing really - but once I got on the mound and let that first pitch go I didn't thinking of anything else," he said. "I was in the zone."
His only loss came two weeks ago to Washington and Wednesday's losing pitcher Kyle Hoo
. Washington was after its third straight section title.
Known for its offensive numbers — Lowell entered with a state-best 309 runs to go with a .340 team batting average — the Cardinals won this one with pitching and defense.
"It wasn't a fluke how we played on defense today," Saunders said. "I knew we have guys who could make plays behind and that's just what they did."
Unfortunately for Washington and Hoo, that wasn't the case. The Eagles made three errors in the third and fourth innings, leading to six runs. Lowell needed just one hit in each inning — both doubles from Saunders — to take a commanding 6-0 lead.
Saunders' first double down the left line got past outfielder Zach Dair
, allowing Aaron Leong
to score. Saunders scored on a groundout by Andy Glickfeld
Saunders' two-run double, an infield error and sacrifice fly by Simons made it 6-0 in the fourth, before a run-scoring double from Josh Vaughan
gave Lowell its final cushion and coach John Donohue his 12th SFS title and 686th win.
Washington, which reached third only once, got singles from Chris Hau
, Dair, Chris Yee
and Garret Chiem
Lowell moves on to play the Oakland Section champions in the Transbay Series next week.
"It's a great group of seniors and players and I have a great bunch of coaches around me," Donohue said. "To play like we did today was special."