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BASEBALL: First-place HMB Tripped up by South City

Cougars suffer first PAL Ocean blemish; HMB still in firm control of league race and CCS hopes.

The Score: South City 5, HMB 1.

The Star: South San Francisco junior pitcher Joey Marcucci handed visiting Half Moon Bay its first loss in 11 games in the Peninsula Athletic League Ocean Division with a complete-game gem on Tuesday afternoon. Marcucci (6-5) allowed one unearned run and six hits, all singles, to beat Julian Garcia in a battle of workhorse right-handers. For HMB, Alex Jenkins went 2-for-4, stole a base and threw an inning of scoreless relief.

The Turning Point: South City’s loud first inning against Garcia (6-2) set the tone as the hosts went ahead 2-0 – sparked by leadoff batter Greg Bildhauer’s inside-the-park home run and Miguel Diaz’s ensuing triple. But it was South City’s three-run fifth that put the game out of reach. Half Moon Bay had pulled to within 2-1 in the top of the inning as Garcia singled with two out, stole second and scored on an infield error. But then the Warriors immediately answered by capitalizing on two infield throwing errors to take a 5-2 lead.

The Quote: “It shows us we’re not invincible, first off. … This is good for us actually. I think because we’re going to wake up from it, we’re going to practice hard; we’re going to come out Thursday ready to win. It’s going to help us prepare for (the Central Coast Section playoffs).” – HMB junior Alex Jenkins, on what his team learned from its first PAL Ocean defeat.

What’s Next? The Cougars (18-6, 10-1 PAL Ocean) take aim at a share of the PAL Ocean title and a spot in the Central Coast Section playoffs when they host South City (12-11, 6-5) on Thursday at 4 p.m.

The Bottom Line: Half Moon Bay suffered the first bump in its pursuit of the PAL Ocean title, but the Cougars are still in firm control of the league. HMB maintained its two-game lead because Woodside beat Capuchino 10-9 on Tuesday. Those teams now share second place at 8-3. The Cougars can now clinch a share of the league title and a berth in the CCS playoffs with a win on Thursday. (The top two Ocean teams earn automatic berths – and HMB owns tiebreakers over Cap and Woodside.)

Notes: After Garcia scored to cut HMB’s deficit in half with two outs in the top of the fifth, South City’s Bildhauer raced in and made a diving catch to rob Tony Carlevaris of a hit in center field and get Marcucci out of the inning. Marcucci didn’t allow a runner past first in the final two innings. … Half Moon Bay, which climbed to No. 6 this week in Patch’s , hadn’t allowed more than four runs in an Ocean game before Tuesday. … Garcia, who surrendered five runs and seven hits in five innings, entered with a 1.35 ERA in 57 innings. The senior hadn’t allowed more than three runs in his previous eight starts. Garcia, who struck out five, didn’t issue a walk but he did hit three batters. … HMB’s formidable running game faced a solid test against South City junior catcher Ramzy Azar. Jenkins, whose first-inning steal made him 11-for-11 on theft attempts this year, was finally caught stealing by Azar after a bunt single in the third. Azar later picked off David Moody at first. … Garcia’s stolen base was his team-leading 20th (in 21 attempts). … The Cougars matched their season high with four errors.

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South San Francisco 5, Half Moon Bay 1

HMB – 000 010 0 – 1 6 4

SSF – 200 030 x – 5 8 1

WP: Marcucci (6-5). LP: Garcia (6-2).

HR: Bildhauer (SSF). 3B: Diaz (SSF). 2B: Maluia (SSF). 2 hits: Jenkins (HMB); Bildhauer, Maluia (SSF).

Records: Half Moon Bay 18-6, 10-1 PAL Ocean. South City 12-11, 6-5.

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