SAN JOSE – When Easton Kreshel smashed his third homer in as many games on the left center wall, it was the culmination of a week of quick work on his swing. Kreshel’s two-point blast opened a game in a tie, and Valley Christian never gave up on his lead en route to a fourth straight Coast Mid Section baseball championship, 6-5, against Archbishop. Mitty.
Two innings later, coach John Diatte bit back tears after second-year reliever Alec Belardes survived a final trade from Mitty and was swarmed by his teammates. The championship was Diatte’s 10th in 32 seasons as a coach. Diatte, who has worn number 10 since playing Valley Christian before it was a baseball powerhouse, said he holds a special place in his heart.
“My nickname is ‘Ten’. My own kids laugh at me because I have this obsession with number 10, ”said Diatte, after celebrating the victory with a kiss with his wife, Kelly. “For us getting our 10th (CCS Championship) is pretty cool.”
Kreshel’s long ball was the biggest hit in a three-run fifth inning that gave Valley the lead for good.
Mitty’s right-hander Tristan Fox recorded the first two outs in the fourth, but he couldn’t get out of the frame.
After Kreshel brought home elder Jonathan Cymrot home on his home run, sophomore Michael Casteneda scored a single and came home on the next batter when Griffin Allen hit a double to give Valley 5 the lead. -2.
Jacob Schlesselman scored on a wild pitch the next inning for an insurance run that would prove critical after Mitty responded with one of his own in the bottom of the sixth.
The Monarchs were led by three and were on their last three withdrawals. It was a position they held before, however, having advanced into the title game by rallying for a win on foot in their last trip to the plate in the semi-finals against Los Gatos.
Zach Yorke and Matthew Halbach reached the start of the inning and eventually came back to score, bringing the Monarchs to one point. Once again, Mitty loaded the bases.
This time, instead of a walk for the Monarchs, Belardes got Mitty’s point guard, Jarren Advincula, swinging for the 21st out.
When the pile of dogs cleared, the Warriors won their fourth straight CCS trophy in the top division (there was no open division this season). This is only the second time that the feat has been accomplished, and the first time that it has been achieved under a single coach. (Bellarmine won four consecutive victories from 1985 to 1988 under coaches Don Ardissone and Gary Cunningham.)
Diatte took over the program 32 seasons ago and was left by his predecessor, he said: “10 pants and five shirts, which we weren’t going to go very far with.
“We’re in a much better place now,” he said.
Valley entered the CCS game after falling to Archbishop Mitty in the WCAL title match.
As the tournament’s third seed, Valley Christian made his way to the championship by knocking out top seeded Palo Alto in the semifinals and then seeded in the final.
Kreshel left the court in both games, as well as the Warriors’ quarter-final victory over Aptos to open the CCS tournament.
With a week between the West Catholic Athletic League and CCS tournaments, Kreshel said he used the free time to rework his swing. He spent every day working at Cymrot, trying to improve himself to stay back on the ball.
“I was just like, ‘See a fastball, line it up in the middle,’ and it worked,” Kreshel said.
The 11th Diatte Championship may not be as predestined as the 10th for the man whose license plate is personalized with 10s on it.
But next season, Valley Christian sacks Kreshel and a host of other underclassmen, including rising juniors Jacob Hudson and Michael Casteneda, who each scored runs and pitched innings on the mound in the Championship game.
No team has ever won five CCS titles in a row.
“I’m not even going to think about it,” Diatte said. “I’m going to enjoy 10 now.”