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‘One of the best plays we’ve ever seen’
The toughest position to play on the baseball field at Foothill High in Pleasanton isn’t shortstop or third, catcher or center field.
When the sun starts to set on a spring evening and the glare from the cars parked above the berm to the left of home plate sparkles – not to mention the tanbark on the berm – left field can be a defensive nightmare.
Payton McMillan lost his breath playing the position Friday.
But he made the catch.
McMillan delivered the play of the day – if not the season – while helping top-seeded Foothill breeze to a 9-0 victory over Heritage in the quarterfinals of the North Coast Section Division I playoffs.
Coach Angelo Scavone, who graduated from the Pleasanton school in 1988, has had two left fielders who figured out how to play left field at Foothill. McMillan is one of them.
What makes it so tough?
“Well, you have the tanbark, so No. 1, you can’t see the ball off the bat,” Scavone said. “Then you have the windshields with the glare and the sun is in your eyes the entire game, especially when you play at 5 o’clock. He’s been unbelievable out there.”
Heritage had runners at first and second in the fifth when Jalen Owens lofted a ball to deep left field. McMillan, who was playing shallow, charged back and caught it before hitting the fence. He got up, fired the ball to the infield, and then went back down from having knocked the wind out himself.
When the infield umpire ruled that a Heritage runner did not tag up at second before moving to third, the catch started an inning-ending double play that kept Foothill in front 6-0.
“My center fielder told me to come in on the ball a little bit to keep the sun out of my eyes,” McMillan said. “Then I saw the ball off the bat and said, ‘Oh, shoot.’ I started running back and lost it in the sun a little bit. I was just like, ‘OK, I am just going to go to a spot.’
“I saw it at the last minute and was able to be in the right spot to give myself an opportunity to make that catch. I have no idea how I was able to get that ball in. I knew there was a guy on second and I was trying to get it in to at least keep the guy from getting to third.”
Foothill scored four runs in the first to take command and added two in the fourth. Nick Walsh had three hits, including a two-run double in the first, and Tyler Gebb pitched 5 ⅔ innings for his 13th victory this season.
“We played really well,” Scavone said. “Pitched well, good defense and we hit a little bit. Tyler is such a strike-thrower and is hard to hit. We had really good plays at second base, third base and the left fielder made one of the best plays we’ve ever seen.”
Foothill (24-4) will play host to No. 4 seed California in the semifinals Tuesday.
Heritage, seeded ninth, finished 16-11.
- PHOTOS: Scroll to the bottom for more Foothill-Heritage pictures
No. 4 California 2, No. 12 Granada 1
Raoul Fabian knocked in the game-ending run in the bottom of the seventh as California survived a tense quarterfinal against Granada.
Nic Bronzini struck out 12 in six innings for California, but the run he allowed in the sixth tied the score.
California loaded the bases in the seventh, then celebrated a berth in the semifinals when Fabian delivered.
The Grizzlies improved to 23-5. Granada finished 16-11.
🚨Walk It Off!🚨
In an epic pitcher’s duel @raoulfabian1 finds a way to put the boys into the NCS D1 final 4️⃣! 👏👏
— Grizzly Baseball (@CalHSBaseball) May 21, 2022
No. 7 Liberty 1, No. 2 Clayton Valley Charter 0
Liberty made a first-inning run hold up as the Lions went on the road and stunned Clayton Valley Charter to advance to the Division I semifinals Tuesday at De La Salle. In two playoff games, Liberty has scored four runs but has allowed just two.
No. 1 Berean Christian 3, No. 9 The Bay School 0
Griffin DeRusso knocked in two runs in a three-run fifth and Tom Reed and Sebastian Gonzalez combined on the shutout as Berean Christian beat The Bay School in an NCS Division V quarterfinal.
Berean will play host to No. 4 University in the semifinals Tuesday. University beat No. 5 St. Vincent de Paul 7-3.
No. 2 Fremont Christian 10, No. 7 Stuart Hall 1
Joe Banda had two hits and knocked in four runs and Daniel Lopez had two hits and drove in three runs to lead Fremont Christian to a win at home over Stuart Hall in the NCS Division V quarterfinals.
Troy Frazier allowed a run and struck out nine in four innings as Fremont Christian advanced to play at home Tuesday against No. 3 Branson, a 10-0 winner over No. 11 Athenian.
No. 2 Heritage 5, No. 7 Clayton Valley Charter 3
Summer Lagomarsino hit a two-run single in the third and drove in another run in the fifth as Heritage advanced to the semifinals with a win at home over Clayton Valley Charter.
The Patriots will play host to No. 3 Vintage on Tuesday. Vintage routed California 12-0 on Friday.
Top-seeded Granada outlasted No. 9 College Park 14-8 to set up a semifinal matchup against No. 4 San Ramon Valley, an 8-2 winner over James Logan.
No. 1 Livermore 4, No. 9 Casa Grande 0
Taylor Rodriguez struck out 14 and also had two hits and Taylor Rapp homered to lead Livermore past Casa Grande in the Division II quarterfinals.
Livermore advanced to play Marin Catholic at Junction Middle School in Livermore on Tuesday.
No. 2 Benicia cruised past No. 10 Alhambra 11-1 to reach Tuesday’s semifinals at home against No. 3 American Canyon, which beat Rancho Cotate 11-6.