Thursday marked the last game of the season for the Varsity Dons Baseball team. It also happened to be Senior Night and the rubber match of a 3-game series with the 1st place Clayton Valley Charter school. With finals over and the last time we’d get to see Ben Burleigh, Michael Castelli, Davis Diaz, Sam Heyman, Brady Huchingson, and Sam Winkles in an Acalanes uniform, the stands were packed, and the vibe was electric.
It was nice to see an injured Sam Winkles throw the ceremonial first pitch before he handed the ball to starter Michael Castelli. His opponent was a very tall hard throwing right hander, who is also a D1 commit. Clayton Valley struck first in the top of the 2nd inning and put 2 runs on the board, and then added 1 more in the top of the 4th. Still injured Davis Diaz served as the DH and led the Dons half of the 4th off with a sharp single to right center. Sam Heyman got the Dons on the board with a laser double down the left field line scoring pinch runner Evan Malmquist (jr).
Castelli gave way to Dante Montgomery (jr) in the 5th, who pitched a brilliant inning to keep the score at 3-1. Jack Cusumano (jr) led the Dons 5th off with single to center. Jack stole 2nd, but was subsequently thrown out at the plate on a great throw from the center fielder after a single off the bat of Miles Bergman (jr). Bergman proceeded to score on a Kyle White double to right center field, but unfortunately White was gunned down at 3rd trying to stretch out a triple on the play. Davis Diaz then singled on a hard line drive to right field, and exited the Acalanes field for the last time as he gave way to a pinch runner.
Sam Heyman set Clayton Valley down in the 6th. Down 3-2, the Dons led their 6th off with a hard single to left by Brady Huchingson. Brady moved to 3rd on a 1 out single by Will Berrien (jr), and then scored on a perfectly executed safety squeeze by Ben Burleigh tying the score at 3-3.
Clayton Valley wasn’t done though and were able to manufacture a run of their own in their half of the 7th inning, leaving the Dons down by 1. Kyle White led matters off in the Dons half of the 7th with his second double of the day, and whatever hope was fading for the Dons was immediately restored. Two outs later, Kyle still found himself at second and hope was hanging in the balance once again. With a hot bat all series long, it looked like the Clayton Valley pitcher wanted no part of Brady Huchingson and walked him on 5 pitches. Luke Souza (jr) came to the plate and fought for a hard earned walk to load the bases, which brought up Will Berrien. The bases were loaded, there were two outs, the Dons were down by one and the series and season was on the line. The Clayton Valley starter was still in the game and hoping to finish with a complete game and keep Clayton Valley’s hopes alive of winning the DAL. The first pitch was down the middle for a called strike. The next one will go down in Acalanes baseball folklore, as Berrien lined a shot to left field. Kyle White came into score and the 3rd base coach waved Brady home as the left fielder came charging in to grab the ball. Knowing he’d have to make a quick pick up of the ball and a good throw home to get Brady, the ball scooted under his glove (gophers!) and Brady slid home safely giving the Dons the walk-off 5-4 victory.
The fans went wild, while the team poured out of the dugout and dogpiled on Berrien, then the coaches got in on the dogpile, then a bunch of current and former students who had been watching the game from the outfield. It was quite a scene and the perfect ending to the season and Dons career for the seniors. All 5 seniors who took the field were instrumental in this win. Burleigh had the bunt single to plate the tying run. Castelli pitched 4 strong innings. Diaz had 2 hits. Heyman had 2 hits and pitched 2 strong innings. Huchingson had 1 hit, 2 walks, made multiple awesome plays in the field, and scored the winning run.
Good luck to the seniors as they head off on new adventures. We can’t wait to see the rest of the team back on the field next Spring. Go Dons!