By Gabriel Bernstein July 2, 2024

Legends Have Successes to Build Off Despite Fall to .500

Updated: July 2, 2024

The Menlo Park Legends have picked up a pair of wins from a challenging stretch of six games in as many days that began last Wednesday. A three-game losing streak over the weekend brought the Legends down to the .500 winning percentage mark, but they rose to a 9–8 record on Monday afternoon, however. Tough opposition, shaky pitch command and defensive miscues typified the losses, while a number of stellar performances on the mound as well as an uptick in slugging offered boosts of confidence.

The Legends went up against a familiar opponent to start the week, the Alameda Merchants. RHP AJ Valle started in the sixth matchup between the teams, but the top of the Merchants lineup ambushed him with three opposite-field hits to begin the game that kickstarted a three-run first inning. Menlo Park responded in kind in the bottom half by putting their first three batters on base and cashing in two on a single from 1B Jordan Crawford. Valle lasted four innings and handed off a 4–2 ballgame to RHP Jacob Baca.

Baca went three no-hit innings, keeping the Legends in the game, and Crawford provided an RBI double to cut the Merchants’ lead to 4–3. Crawford has swung the hottest bat for Menlo Park, collecting 10 hits in 23 at bats as of Monday. The game got away from the Legends in the eighth, where RHP Drew Brown lost command and the Merchants cobbled together a three-run rally off three walks, a couple infield singles, and a wild pitch. Brown’s struggle in his first home appearance came as a surprise because he had only given up two runs in 12 innings prior to Wednesday.

The following evening at the College of San Mateo, RHP Richard Kiel treated viewers to yet another gem. He started opposite Sonoma Stompers southpaw Destin Allen-Fox in a pitching rematch of a 3–1 defeat on June 7. This time around, Kiel tossed six complete innings and allowed one run on 101 pitches. In an uncommon sight for a pitcher on his start day, Kiel was also on the dugout railing cheering for his teammates on offense in between his half-innings on the mound. The offense did break out in the fourth to support Kiel’s effort, notching four consecutive singles and a pair of sacrifice flies to give the home team a 3-1 advantage. 

RHP Richard Kiel threw six innings of one-run ball versus the Sonoma Stompers on June 27, lowering his ERA to 1.68 and recording his second win of the season.

In addition to the run support, Kiel acknowledged the position players for their defense in his reflection on his outing. 

“I was fortunate, I had a few pitches working today, but more so the boys behind me,” he said. “They had my back, I mean they had all the plays.”

RHP Michael Taylor closed with three shutout innings, and punched out six to combine with Kiel for a 14 strikeout game.

Two road meetings with the Walnut Creek Crawdads following the win over Sonoma started the Legends’ skid. Early Friday evening, RHP Cole Roberts conceded his first four runs of the summer in his first start of the summer. That first game, though, looked to be a potentially energizing comeback as the Legends lineup erased a 4–0 deficit and went up 6–4 in the fifth on a pair of RBI singles by 1B Emmitt Phinney and SS Joshua Quinn. The visitors’ hopes were short-lived, though, as the Crawdads tied it back up 6–6 in the bottom of the sixth on a pair of RBI doubles, and 3B Cam Calvillo hammered the go-ahead home run in the seventh on the way to an 8–6 victory for Walnut Creek.

The second matchup the next afternoon was, if possible, even tighter. Legends RHP Matthew McConnell dueled with Crawdads lefty Jaxon Byrd for six innings, and the Crawdads had the lone run on the board heading into the seventh. Byrd, whom the Menlo Park batters could not figure out for their second time facing him, gave way to RHP Cal Johnson after six scoreless. The Legends hitters jumped on the new pitcher and put together a four-run rally that John Paul Avila capped off with a pinch-hit moonshot to left field, his second homer in the series with the Crawdads. McConnell—in his first appearance in two weeks—became the first Legends starter to enter the seventh inning all summer, but he ran into trouble there. Two errors from the Legends defense aided the Crawdads as they tagged McConnell for three runs to tie the game, 4–4 and prompted his exit after 6⅔ innings. The go-ahead fifth run came across on a wild pitch that got away from RHP Dawson Radik. The Legends then went quietly against RHP Drew Aguiar, who recorded the one-run save for Walnut Creek.

The Legends were competitive in the contests over at Monte Vista High School, but are now 1–4 on the summer versus a high-powered Crawdads club. The Crawdads were 13–5 and riding a six-game win streak when the calendar turned to July. 

The weekend reached a disastrous nadir in a 13–1 blowout loss to the Stompers back at College of San Mateo on Saturday. Brown, the starter, could not find the zone and walked six in the first inning alone, which gifted the Stompers a 4–0 lead. RHP Dorian Lippens dealt with the same problem in relief of Brown; he issued four free passes and hit two men, and at the end of the third the deficit was an insurmountable 10–0. 

Baca, who had his command working earlier against the Merchants, considered how the pitching staff could improve.

“We just need to be more confident with the fastball, you know, getting ahead,” he said. “I think we have good enough stuff, we can just throw that fastball to get ahead.”

The relatively brief length of the summer season amplifies the three game slide, especially when each result was so hard to swallow.

Michael Taylor
Kevahn Ebron Legends 1

RHP Michael Taylor and LHP Kevahn Ebron held the San Francisco Seagulls lineup to just two hits in the Legends’ 8-1 win on July 1.

The Legends finally returned to the win column against the Seagulls at home on Monday. Taylor, who closed the team’s previous win on Wednesday, delivered the first pitch at a rare weekday 1:00 p.m. start time. He was nearly untouchable in his five innings of work and surrendered just one run on a pair of singles and a pair of walks. Taylor, part of both of the Legends wins this week, owns a 1.20 ERA this summer and reportedly received calls from Division I schools on Monday. Not to be overshadowed, however, LHP Kevahn Ebron finished the 8–1 victory with four innings of no-hit ball. 

The Legends lineup racked up seven runs in the middle innings, and 1B Emmit Phinney put the cherry on top in the eighth, a 410 foot opposite-field blast to right-center headed toward Highway 92. Phinney and Crawford have been a formidable duo sharing reps at first base, and just this Tuesday Phinney committed to play for San Jose State next season.

The Seagulls and Legends met again Tuesday to complete a two-game series, and they play each other on Friday and Sunday at San Bruno City Park as well. The Legends also get a chance to redeem themselves against the Stompers in a couple visits to Arnold Field on Wednesday and Saturday night.