By Gabriel Bernstein June 26, 2024

Legends Battle with Crawdads for the Top Spot in the Division

Updated: June 26, 2024

The Menlo Park Legends, at 7–4, and the Walnut Creek Crawdads, at 8–5, led the standings in the California Collegiate League (CCL) North Division at the end of a week that featured three games between the two clubs. Menlo managed to grab one of those three and added a Friday night win over the San Francisco Seagulls to break even for the week and keep even with Walnut Creek.

The Crawdads visited the College of San Mateo on Wednesday for the first time this summer. Over six prior CCL North games, they had already outscored opponents by 28 runs in total, and as such presented the stiffest competition yet for the Legends. Dominant pitching chilled the Legends bats, with Walnut Creek righty Drew Aguiar notably contributing four perfect innings of relief and striking out seven to earn the win. Meanwhile, twelve walks issued by Legends pitchers took their toll. Leading from the second inning onwards, the Crawdads claimed an 8–1 runaway.

In the two days between head-to-head matchups, the Legends and Crawdads each beat the Seagulls. For the Legends, excellent pitching paved the way for a 2–0 shutout at San Bruno City Park. RHP Drew Brown began the effort with four scoreless, and RHP Cole Roberts mowed down the San Francisco hitters in the middle innings. Roberts faced two over the minimum and punched out six in three innings of work. He has yet to give up a run this season. Outfielder Evan Bilter delivered the winning hit in the fifth, a two-out, two-run single off of Seagulls RHP Angel Acosta. It was a timely swing from Bilter on a night where the offense collected just a pair of hits and four walks. Right-handed sidearmer Dawson Radik picked up the six-out save, and he appears to be settled into the closer role for manager Chris DeBoo.

RHP Jacob Baca tossed two innings in relief of Richard Kiel in Saturday’s 7-3 road win over the Walnut Creek Crawdads.

To try and flip the script from the Legends’ earlier lopsided loss, DeBoo sent RHP Richard Kiel to the mound Saturday afternoon on the road at the Crawdads. Kiel has been at the top of the rotation in terms of both volume and performance, accumulating a team-leading 15⅔  IP and posting a 1.76 ERA in three starts. He recorded a quality start to continue on that track Saturday, going a full six innings—the longest outing for any Legends pitcher to this point—and allowing two runs, one earned. 

The lineup backed up Kiel with a four-run outburst in the first. The rally began with bases loaded and nobody out, and two runs came in before CF Vascon Smith crushed a two-run homer out to left field. DH Dylan Joyce cranked a solo shot off the scoreboard in the fifth—his fourth of the summer in only seven games played—for a 6–2 lead, and Menlo did not look back en route to a 7–3 victory. 

Joyce and Smith, both of whom were on NCAA Division I teams in the spring, have had by far the biggest power strokes for Legends. They are together responsible for seven of the team’s eight home runs across both league and non-league games.

Sunday, the Crawdads and Legends met back at the College of San Mateo, and RHP Reese Lueck took the ball for Menlo opposite LHP Jaxon Byrd. After a scoreless outing the previous Sunday against the Alameda Merchants, Lueck again kept the Legends in a tight ballgame. When he departed after four frames, the contest was knotted at 2–2. It was still tied heading into the sixth, at 3–3, but then the Crawdads roughed up RHP Nolan Rodriguez. The decisive blow was a two-run home run off the bat of Walnut Creek first baseman Presley Kosciusko that made it 5–3 and put Rodriguez on the hook for the loss. The Legends bullpen could not keep it close, as the Crawdads put up two more in the sixth, and kept extending their advantage in the late innings. Walnut Creek in the end got the better of Menlo, 11-5. 

The two out of three games taken by the Crawdads will not be not the last word between the teams, however, and there is a long road ahead for the standings to shake out in the six-team CCL North. 

The Legends are set for two more looks at the Crawdads over at Monte Vista High School on Friday and Saturday in their upcoming five-game week. Before then, the Merchants and the Sonoma Stompers come calling, and the Stompers will also return on Sunday.