Wildcats senior Anthony Andrews tossed 4 1/3 innings of shutout relief to help key a 7-3 win over Los Altos on May 10. Los Gatos' victory clinched an outright SCVAL De Anza Division title for the second straight year. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.

Three teams—Los Gatos, Los Altos and Palo Alto—entered the final day of the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League De Anza Division season with an opportunity to share or win an outright championship. 

In the end, it was the Wildcats standing alone at the top after they beat Los Altos 7-3 on May 10, clinching their second consecutive ‘A’ league title. 

“Happy to win back-to-back championships in this league, which is really tough,” Los Gatos coach Mike Minkel said. “Winning a league championship is one thing, being able to do it back-to-back is pretty special.”

Pitcher Anthony Andrews, who helped key the victory with 4 ⅓ innings of shutout relief, echoed Minkel’s comments. 

“Winning this league obviously is not a small feat,” Andrews said. “This team has always had the talent, but it was about putting it all together and I think this kind of solidifies our spot as one of the best Los Gatos teams to ever do it.”

The Wildcats (23-4) earned the No. 3 seed in the Central Coast Section Division I playoffs and host No. 6 Carmel on Saturday at 11am.

Minkel is confident the team is prepared to make a deep playoff push after going 11-3 through a grueling league schedule. This year’s battle for the De Anza Division crown was one of the closest in the last decade. 

The Wildcats entered the final week of league play needing to sweep their two-game set with Los Altos to have a shot at the league championship. A 2-1 win over Los Altos on May 9 set up a monumental final day of the league season, as Los Gatos, Los Altos and Palo Alto all had 10-3 league marks. 

Los Gatos completed the sweep but also needed Wilcox to beat Palo Alto on the final day to win the title outright. And that’s exactly what transpired, with Wilcox defeating Palo Alto, 3-1. In the title-clinching game, Andrews was magnificent in his longest relief outing of the season. 

The team’s closer, Andrews felt strong enough to tell Minkel he was good to go the distance if called upon early. 

“I’ve been mostly closing which has been one to two innings max (per outing), so coming in here and being able to throw four innings and being pretty dominant, I’m pretty happy with that,” Andrews said. “I had some velo(city) on my fastball, so it helps being able to play off that with my secondary pitches. And I can’t go without mentioning my defense. It’s always a good feeling being able to trust your defense.”

Minkel praised starter AJ Minyard and Andrews for their performances throughout the season. Minyard allowed seven hits and lasted 2 ⅔ innings, one of his shortest outings of the season. However, Minyard has been consistently excellent, posting quality start after quality start. 

“AJ has had an unbelievable year,” Minkel said. “This was kind of an anomaly for him. He’s been a big-game guy for us. He didn’t have his best stuff today, and that’s OK for us because we have guys this year who can back behind him, essentially, and carry us the rest of the way.”

Case in point, Andrews.

“Unbelievable job by Tony to come in, shut it down and not give them any momentum offensively because that’s a really good offensive club right there,” Minkel said. 

Los Gatos won the first game against Los Altos when Santino Nanez hit a ground ball fielder’s choice that the Eagles misplayed, allowing the tying and winning runs to score with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning. 

Ethan Williams (10-1) delivered another superb start, putting the team in position to win in riveting fashion. In the second game between the schools, the Wildcats never trailed, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning. 

They manufactured the three runs on one hit, two walks, two hit by pitches and a sacrifice-fly. AJ Ljepava singled with one out and Carter Johnstone followed with a walk. After Brady Simon was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Donovan Freed walked to drive in a run. 

Brayden Smith was hit by a pitch to make it 2-0, and Sage Romero drove in the third run with a sac-fly to left field. Los Altos scored a run in the bottom of the first and threatened to take the lead in the bottom of the third. 

That’s when Los Gatos left fielder Zach Biller made one of the key plays of the game, gunning down a Los Altos runner at home plate to keep the Wildcats ahead, 3-2. Even though the Eagles’ Kai MacQuiddy stroked an RBI single to make it 3-3 moments later, Biller’s play prevented a potentially bigger inning. 

“Fantastic job by Zach to make that throw and keep it a one-run game at the time,” Minkel said. “And great job by our catcher Rowen (Smith) to receive that ball and make the tag. Great play all around, big-time play.”

Johnstone went 2-for-3, including a two-run triple that made it 6-3 with no out in the top of the seventh inning. 

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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