I guess it wouldn’t be the Hayward Area Athletic League if Bishop O’Dowd wasn’t at the top of the standings…or so it seems.
The Dragons have won or at least shared the past six HAAL titles and it finally seemed like the run was going to come to an end in early March. That’s when Arroyo pasted the Dragons 13-2 and it really wasn’t even that close. The Dons were on a completely different level at the time.
But on Friday was the second meeting between the two at O’Dowd’s short-porched field. And this time the Dragons matched the intensity of Arroyo with a seven-run flurry against Alex Jack in the bottom of the first inning. And then it was Game On!
Both teams played pepper with the 325 foot fences and runs were coming across quickly. There would eventually be a combined five home runs in the game, including two by O’Dowd’s Ryan Walterhouse. And after all the damage, it was the Dragons (9-1) still standing with, perhaps, a post-season saving 13-12 eight-inning victory to move them into a first-place tie with Arroyo (9-1)
The win was huge! Now O’Dowd is in prime position to capture at least a share of the HAAL crown for a seventh straight season and _ more importantly _ the league’s automatic North Coast Section 3-A playoff berth.
The Dragons entered the game clearly needing the win more than Arroyo. I don’t have the team’s overall records in front of me, but the Dragons struggled in non-league play and would have had a tough time arguing for an at-large berth into the NCS playoffs without the win over Arroyo.
Meanwhile, Arroyo had a great non-league season and is a lock to get a spot in the 16-team field without the automatic berth.
Everyone knew going in that O’Dowd wouldn’t just roll over for Arroyo. After all, the Dragons have held down the first-place spot for six seasons. These kids don’t want to be labeled as the team that ruined The Streak.
I give both teams a ton of credit for showing some real heart and ability to battle back against adversity. Arroyo’s ace Alex Jack was shockingly knocked out in the second inning, but the Dons continued to rip the ball around the yard in an effort to outslug the Dragons.
And what can you say about O’Dowd? What a great effort. Four fielding errors and I think it was four different pitchers and they still answered every rally that Arroyo threw at them. O’Dowd never got down after a mistake and that might be the key to its turnaround.
While it was an exciting game to watch, I am hoping these two teams don’t have to play in the first round of NCS. I like to see the league get a chance to show its strength against the other leagues first.