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Hanging a section baseball championship banner has been the aim for Tomales seniors since first pulling on the Braves uniform. Now they are one win away.

The top seed in North Coast Section Division 6 handled California School for the Deaf in a Friday semifinal, 11-2, and will host the title contest June 1.

"It's been a goal since we've been freshman," said senior co-captain Juan Avalos. "This is our last chance. We've got to play our best to get it."

Solid defense — no errors Friday — and timely hitting have helped Tomales hold off opponents. Steady pitching is another hallmark of the season, with Morgan Giammona tossing a complete game Friday.

"Fewer walks, that's been my goal, and to increase velocity. We're playing our best right now," Giammona said.

Aiding the Braves at home were costly Eagles errors and too many passed balls and wild pitches. Still, coming off the first section baseball playoff win in school history, California School for the Deaf players did not hang their heads, making Tomales work for the win.

"We wanted a section championship. We didn't make it, but we still had a good season," said Eagles ace and top hitter Paul Padilla.

Both teams came in playing well after facing league tests against small-school programs that compete in NCS Division 5. Tomales was third in the NCL II.

California School for the Deaf, from Fremont, tied for second in the Bay Counties League.

Tomales made the most of advantages that come with a top seed and first-round bye. Playing at home, on a typically windy afternoon near the north Marin County coast, the Braves also were able to throw their top starting pitcher.

California School for the Deaf went to their second in line after Padilla went the distance Tuesday to help defeat Anderson Valley.

In the opening frame, Giammona set the Eagles down in order, including two of his six strikeouts.

Tomales scored three times without a hit in the bottom half of the first inning to take the lead for good.

The first Braves hit was a second-inning deep double by Giammona, and he later scored on a passed ball.

A leadoff single from sophomore Ivan Gomez would lead to another Tomales run, as he scored on a third-inning single from Jose Chavarria.

Yet the Eagles could have dug a deeper hole if not for some heady defense and enough clutch pitching from Zane Pedersen. Strong when in the strike zone, Pedersen kept CSD close until tiring in the fourth inning. The last hit he surrendered was a two run double by Gomez to put Tomales up 7-0. Another run scored on a passed ball.

Then Padilla, the Eagles' ace, silenced the rally and helped get California School for the Deaf on the scoreboard. With two outs, the Eagles gained a base on balls followed by an infield hit from Trace Martin. Padilla stroked a single to right field to score the runners.

"Our strength has been always making comebacks. We still did our best," Padilla said.

Demonstrating determination, Tomales responded in the bottom of the fifth inning with a matching pair of runs. Brennan Potts opened with a single, later scoring on a deep sacrifice fly from Avalos.

"We stay positive. We make the plays," Avalos said.

To close out the win, Giammona stayed strong on the mound and Tomales made several steady defensive plays including three challenging drives off Eagles bats to the outfield.

"We worked for it, that's for sure," Giammona said.

After handshakes to conclude the afternoon, Avalos called out to his team: "One more win."

Another victory and Tomales will be first-time section baseball champions.

BASEBALL HELPS THE HEALING

Stepping onto the Tomales baseball diamond for a playoff game aided Avalos in the aftermath of his brother's death.

Abraham Avalos, a 2008 graduate from Tomales high, died in an automobile accident this week.

Friday was brother Juan Avalos' first day back in school and with the Braves baseball team. An outspoken leader for Tomales, the middle infielder took up his role despite a heavy heart.

"My family and friends supported me. I knew my team needed me," Avalos said.

Helping anchor the Braves defense at shortstop, Avalos hit the ball hard three times, drew a walk and scored a run.

"My brother would have wanted me out here," he said.