Lowell earns baseball crown at AT&T

The Lowell High Cardinals were crowned San Francisco high school baseball champions for the 17th time in school history Wednesday, beating the Balboa High Buccaneers 6-4 at AT&T Park.

It took a while for the professionals to get out of their way, but 73 minutes after Buster Posey’s four-pitch walk saw the San Francisco Giants to a 13-inning, 5-4 victory over Toronto, Lowell (13-15, 6-6) and Balboa (11-12-1, 10-2) took the field for the CIF San Francisco section championship game.

SFBay estimates 700 classmates, family members and high school baseball fans were invited by the stadium announcer to hold onto any baseballs retrieved as “souvenirs” from their trip to AT&T, with many balls rolling to a stop in their lower-deck resting places.

It’s not every day high school players go head-to-head in a professional yard, and this game began in cagey fashion, with early dominant displays from Balboa starter Moises Flores and Lowell’s Joe Solomon.

The first run came in the top of the fourth inning off the bat of Lowell’s Solomon. The senior’s looping sacrifice to shallow left was just enough to drive in junior Adam Gardi, tagging up from third base.

With Lowell leading 1-0, a drag bunt from sophomore second baseman Alex Bradshaw advanced junior first baseman Kyle Ruan in the fifth inning. Bradshaw then stole second, placing Balboa starting pitcher Moises Flores in a jam from which he would not escape.

A line drive single to center field off the bat of Matthew Sam plated the two waiting Lowell base runners and saw Flores exit his final high school pitching appearance.

Balboa head coach Tom Pontino called on senior reliever Ethan Chen to get the Buccaneers out of the jam. Chen did just that, forcing a ground from Anderson Giang to end the top half of the fifth, leaving the game 3-0 in Lowell’s favor.

Balboa responded in the inning’s bottom half. A two-out line drive single from relief pitcher Ethan Chen brought the Bucs within two runs at 3-1 with two innings left to play.

Solomon wasn’t done helping himself though, leading off the sixth with his second single. But Flores, who moved behind the plate after being pulled from the mound, wasn’t done impacting the game with his powerful right arm. Solomon’s courtesy runner was gunned down by Flores trying to swipe second for the inning’s first out.

In the sixth, Balboa senior Gio Norori’s no-out double over the left fielder’s head drove in Chiang in from first. Junior Jared Cayaba’s line drive single on the next pitch pushed Norori to third, setting up Jacob Wong’s game-tying double. The Bucs scored two runs to tie the game at 3-3 before succumbing their first out in the inning, halting Solomon’s dominant pitching performance.

The deadlock didn’t last. Three more runs in the seventh inning, including two off a double from Solomon, secured the victory for Lowell despite a late consolation run from Balboa in the bottom half.