St. Vincent batters Upper Lake in battle of unbeaatens

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Something had to give. Both the St. Vincent de Paul and Upper Lake high school baseball teams were undefeated going into Tuesday’s game in Petaluma.

Ultimately, St. Vincent came out on top decisively, 11-1, in the North Central League II matchup that puts the Mustangs alone atop the standings at 5-0.

St. Vincent led 9-1 with runners on second and third in the bottom of the fifth when Tyler Cunha hit a hard grounder to second that scooted under the glove of Blain Rhodes.

The misplay allowed St. Vincent runners Coleton Cristiani and Trent Free to score, ending the game early with a 10-run spread.

That came after St. Vincent went up 1-0 in the first and increased the lead to 6-0 after three. The Mustangs added another three in the fourth inning.

“We swung the bat pretty well,” Mustangs coach Stan Switala said.

Both teams have shown powerful offense this year, with eight of the NCL II’s top 15 hitters coming from Upper Lake or St. Vincent.

St. Vincent has outscored opponents 81-13 in its five league games and 133-36 in 11 total games, while Upper Lake has played just three league game but outscored those opponents 23-12, and 41-32 in nine total.

Upper Lake coach Brian Milhaupt said his team is better than it showed Tuesday.

“Until this point, we’ve played really good baseball,” he said. “I don’t know if it was because we had spring break last week or what, but we didn’t come to play. And St. Vincent hit the ball great.

“I think next time we play it will be different.”

The Mustangs picked up this year where they left off in 2018: finishing the season 25-1 with a 12-0 run through the NCL II. They advanced to the North Coast Section Division 5 semifinals before finally losing.

Upper Lake has turned its fortunes around this season following last year’s 3-14, 1-11 year. With a stable of sophomores and freshmen, Milhaupt has high hopes his team will grow into itself.

The Mustangs jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Cunha doubled into the left-center gap with two outs, and then came around on John Romano’s single up the middle just out of reach of Cougar pitcher Armando Santos and Rhodes.

St. Vincent added another five runs in the third on four hits and two walks.

Cristiani scored on a Free triple to the right-center gap, then Free came home on a Cunha single. After a passed ball and walk, Dante Antonini tripled to the same gap to bring home Cunha and Romano.

Carson White’s single brought home Antonini for a 6-0 Mustang lead.

St Vincent’s artificial turf field has triples-friendly dimensions in right center. It’s 281 feet to center field with a 24-foot chain-link fence, but 343 feet to the short fence in right-center.

“That’s our home,” Switala said. “If they hit the right-center gap, they can run all day.”

Free pitched all five innings for the Mustangs, giving up only one run, which he acknowledged he had a hand in with two wild pitches. He had six strikeouts, two walks and gave up just three hits, all singles.

“I hadn’t pitched in a week, so I felt good coming in,” said the senior starter.

Cunha, one of the Mustangs’ hottest hitters, is batting .515. He was 2 for 4 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored Tuesday.

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