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By Evan Da Silva
On paper, the San Clemente High School baseball team was considered superior to Bellflower. On Friday, they delivered.
The Tritons handed the Buccaneers a 12-2 thumping in the opening round of the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs, facilitated by a seven-run sixth inning, and proved why they have been named the top-ranked team in the division all season.
Tritons (23-7) junior starting pitcher Andre Pallante stepped up like he had all year and delivered five shut-out innings of work, 4 1/3 of which were no-hit baseball.
Pallante conceded just one walk and two hits while striking out five batters and has comfortably transitioned into the ace of the Tritons pitching staff, after teammate and MLB prospect Kolby Allard was sidelined by injuries most of the season.
“Andre has been awesome this year. We knew he was good, but for him to be this good, he has, in one sense, saved our season,” San Clemente head coach David Gellaty said.
San Clemente scored twice in the first inning set up by two Bellflower (11-13) errors, mistakes that would ultimately become the theme of the game for the Buccaneers. With bases loaded, a timely single by San Clemente senior Connor Sealey and a sac fly by senior Trevor Beard gave the Tritons an early lead. A third Bellflower error on fly ball to the left field hill would put San Clemente up 3-0 in the second inning .
The Tritons drove in two more in the fourth inning after two singles, a Bellflower throwing error, an RBI groundout and a RBI double courtesy of senior Lucas Herbert. Herbert would finish the game 3-4 with three doubles and four RBI.
“I was just trying to barrel-up the ball and get some runs on the board for our team,” Herbert said.
After four quick innings, the Buccaneers would finally touch Pallante and form their first scoring threat. Two singles led to runners at the corners, but it was Pallante’s day, and he would leave those runners on with a groundout to second to record the third out.
Bellflower would finally break-through in the sixth off senior Dylan Riddle and score two runs after a double, a San Clemente error, an RBI single and sacrifice fly to cut the score to 5-2.
The Tritons answered immediately and put together a decisive seven-run bottom of the sixth to shut the door. Herbert would drive in two with another double, followed by senior Will Tribucher’s RBI single and a two-RBI single by Sealey.
“Later on in the ballgame we started playing the way we’re capable of. We started hitting the ball and stringing some hits together, which is something we haven’t really done for quite some time,” Gellatly said.
San Clemente will play Dos Pueblos on May 26. A coin flip will take place May 23 at 9 a.m. to determine the host team.