Legends Brave a Series of Close, High-Intensity Games

Updated: July 9, 2024

Four of the Menlo Park Legends’ games this past week were decided by either one or two runs, supplying the most drama of any span so far this summer. The margins for error were thin, and while the Legends defeated the San Francisco Seagulls on Friday, they also narrowly lost a couple to those Seagulls and fell twice to the Sonoma Stompers. 

The Legends currently sit in fourth place in the CCL North with a 10–12 mark. The top three teams in the division qualify for the CCL postseason, which begins July 30.

Last week’s recap left off with the Legends 8–1 win over San Francisco to open the month of July. This past Tuesday, the Seagulls returned to play the second of back-to-back games at the College of San Mateo. The participants seemed to have short fuses on one of the hottest days of the year to date, and the atmosphere quickly became chippy. Seagulls starting left fielder Isaiah Landry was ejected in only the second inning for arguing balls and strikes and Seagulls manager Dominic Sebastiani got thrown out for an explosion over a check swing call. Banter came in abundance from both dugouts, a pitch whizzed just behind a Seagull hitter’s helmet in the fourth, and aggravation spread over the field. The umpiring crew put up with a lot, but a generously wide strike zone did not help their cause.

The game was hotly contested in terms of the tempers but also the baseball itself. Menlo Park led 3–0 early, but the Seagulls strung together six consecutive hits off RHP Reese Lueck as part of a five-run top of the third. RHP Dawson Radik went four hitless innings to hold the Seagulls the rest of the way, but the Legends could climb back. An incredible seventh inning rally of bunts and infield dribblers brought the team within one, but they squandered a bases loaded one out opportunity and 5–4 was the final.

Wednesday was a forgettable, unsavory night for the Legends in all phases of the game. The pitchers walked sixteen and hit five Sonoma Stompers batters, the defense was charged with seven errors, and the Stompers claimed a 16–1 romp. Left fielder John Paul Avila did launch a home run over the left-center bleachers at Arnold Field for the Legends’ lone run, and his three big flies this summer put him in a tie for second on the entire CCL leaderboard. 

J.P. Avila’s solo blast on July 3 at the Sonoma Stompers moved him into a tie for second on the CCL home run leaderboard.

After a Fourth of July off day, the Legends offense finally broke out—and caught a few breaks—in the fifth inning at San Bruno City Park on Friday. A six-run inning aided by two errors opened up a 7–1 lead over the Seagulls and broke a dry spell of three runs in the Legends previous 20 innings at the plate. The dependable RHP Richard Kiel cruised through six innings—four of them 1-2-3 innings—and the game appeared secure. It all very nearly fell apart, however, in the bottom of the seventh as the Seagulls bats finally came alive for a five-run attack. The Seagulls drove in four of those runs with two outs, not allowing Kiel to escape the inning, and he left with a burdensome 114 pitch count. It was RHP Cole Roberts who got the final out of the seventh and continued on to deliver a smooth seven-out save, and wrap up a 7–6 victory.

Alternating between opponents, the Legends were back at Arnold Field on Saturday night for a matchup with the Stompers. In stark contrast to Wednesday’s blowout, RHP Matthew McConnell held the Stompers in check for his 5⅓ innings of work. RHP Hawk Hill and the home bullpen did the same for Sonoma, though, and the game headed into the seventh tied 1–1. The turning point came in that inning with two outs, Stompers on first and second, and Radik on the mound in relief of McConnell. Legends first baseman Dylan Joyce ranged away from the bag to field a grounder off the bat of LF Jack Scheri, but judged that Radik would not cover first in time. Joyce instead fired a throw to try to catch 2B Luke Rossi sleeping as he rounded third, but the ball sailed over third baseman Kody Watanabe and Rossi came in to score and break the tie. Radik struck out the next batter, but the Legends could not respond on offense and suffered a stinging 2–1 loss.

On Sunday, the Legends visited the Seagulls once again, and played yet another nail biter featuring some of the top arms in the league. RHP Michael Taylor was lights out for five shutout frames, and his microscopic 0.90 ERA places him second in the CCL. For the home side, RHP Dwyer Lewis pitched seven innings and struck out 11. The top three hitters in the Legends lineup collected two hits apiece, but the bats only scratched out one run off of Lewis in the sixth. Center fielder Hayden Jung-Goldberg’s multi-hit game brought his average up to .306, good for fifth in the CCL North.

San Francisco tied the game in the seventh inning against RHP Alexander Morrison on a fielder’s choice. With pinch runner Joshua Algarin at third, first baseman Joyce gloved a ground ball off the bat of RF Logan Hart and threw home, but not in time to nab the speedy Algarin, who dove safely across the plate.

LHP Ronald Rockey and RHP Josh Kim made their season debuts, but Kim was immediately thrust into the most critical juncture of the entire game. He replaced Morrison and the first batter he faced, LF Jake Barbour, ripped the go-ahead two-run double that put the Seagulls up 3–1. RHP Will Ellis, the only pitcher ahead of Taylor in ERA, locked down the eighth and ninth for the save. The Legends have not scored in the eighth or ninth since last Monday.

The Legends now hold a 4–2 head-to-head record versus the Seagulls, and the last game in the season series takes place today, Tuesday, at San Bruno City Park. 

The Legends’ results have been trending in the wrong direction in the past two weeks. The club was 7–4 at the end of the day on June 23 with a +11 run differential. In a 3–8 stretch since then, opponents have outscored them by 25 runs, the offense has produced 3.82 runs per game, down from 5.27 in their first 11 league games.

As they try to get back on track, the Legends face the Stompers at home on Wednesday before heading south for the weekend. On Friday they play the Santa Barbara Foresters, a CCL South team, and then visit Sinsheimer Stadium for two matchups with San Luis Obispo Blues, who are in the CCL North despite their location.