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BASEBALL: Frantic Final Push Sends Hillsdale to CCS

Knights secure PAL Bay's last postseason spot by downing rival Aragon in league finale; Hillsdale hopes hot streak results in deep playoff run like dramatic 2010 surge.

When it comes to the end of the regular season, the Hillsdale High baseball program just doesn’t do easy. But the Knights’ nail-biting formula sure seems to work.

A year ago, Hillsdale’s roller-coaster final week of the Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division season concluded with a dramatic 10-inning loss at rival Aragon that ruined the Knights’ designs on their first Bay title and appeared to end their pursuit of a Central Coast Section playoff berth. But the next day, Hillsdale landed a surprise at-large bid, and promptly rolled all the way to the Division III title game as the No. 16 seed.

This year, a midseason swoon put the Knights’ postseason hopes on life support, but Hillsdale promptly responded by winning five of its final six Bay games, including a 4-0 home win over Aragon on Friday afternoon that locked up the league’s final automatic CCS bid.

Hillsdale (17-9, 8-6 PAL Bay) finished in fourth place, narrowly edging Terra Nova, which entered the week in a three-way tie for second but finished in fifth after dropping two games to first-time champion El Camino (15-10-1, 11-3). While Terra Nova (14-11-1, 7-7) is left , Hillsdale coach Neal Donohoe was thrilled his team ensured its CCS ticket with a frantic push that bodes well for its playoff hopes.

“We once again put ourselves in a position where every game at the end was meaningful, which is the best practice for the playoffs,” said Donohoe, whose team is riding a four-game win streak.

In the league finale, Knights ace Eddie Pagano (4-4) delivered a clutch effort, hurling a shutout to propel his team into the playoffs. The senior right-hander allowed six hits against Aragon (9-16-2, 3-11), while striking out five and walking none.

Kody Barden hit a solo home run, and Tyler Kelly doubled and drove in a run to lead the Hillsdale offense.

Aragon, which finished last in the Bay, received two hits apiece from Trevor McNeil and Mitch Auer. McNeil threw all six innings, allowing five hits and just one earned run.

Now Hillsdale awaits its placement in the CCS field. The seeds will be announced later today, and the first round begins on Wednesday.

The Knights can’t help but look back toward their stunning postseason run a year ago – and hope they can produce an encore.

“The kids definitely are really excited,” Donohoe said. “They’re talking about how much they want to get back to San Jose. We hope we’re peaking at the right time.”

Carlmont (18-8) and Burlingame (16-11) both won on Friday to finish tied for second place at 9-5. , while .

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