The Palma High baseball team doesn’t face Hollister again until the second-to-last game of the season, and at the rate things are going there could be much at stake when the two clubs meet May 7 at Palma High.
The Chieftains kept their title hopes very much alive Thursday by beating Salinas for the second time in three days, 5-1, at Washington Middle School.
Palma, trying for its first league title since 2004, is 9-3 in the MBL Gabilan Division and trails the league-leading Balers by one game with six to play. Hollister beat Christopher 11-2 Thursday.
Salinas, meanwhile, lost its fourth in a row to put its string of six straight years of reaching the Central Coast Section playoffs in peril. The Cowboys are 5-7 and part of a three-team race with Christopher and Monte Vista Christian hoping to grab no worse than fifth place and the last guaranteed playoff position out of the Gabilan Division.
Palma pitcher Cameron Neff staged his own farewell party for the Washington Middle School field by throwing a complete game four-hitter and reaching base in all four of his at-bats with three singles and a walk. He also scored a run and knocked in another.
“I’ve been pitching on this field since I was in juniors (summer league),” Neff, who has already committed to pitch for St. Mary’s of Moraga next season, said. “It was kind of a weird feeling. I have a lot of good memories pitching on this field.”
He gave himself something else to remember by striking out eight and holding the Cowboys scoreless until Jackson Duda’s sacrifice fly in the sixth inning.
Neff praised the work of his catcher, Chuck Byers, for calling the right pitches at the right time.
“He doesn’t get the credit he deserves,” Neff said. “He calls a great game. He’s as good as anyone.”
And it was none other than Byers whose bad-hop RBI-single over shortstop broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning.
Neff kept pace with his batterymate with an RBI-single in the fifth inning and Anthony Payan followed with another RBI-single to stake Palma to a 3-0 lead.
After Salinas scored once in the bottom of the sixth, Palma answered with two in the seventh, with the help of an RBI-single from Mavrick Enz.
“We just have to put ourselves in a good situation and hopefully someone pops Hollister again,” Palma coach Phil Giammanco said.
Palma visits Christopher on Tuesday while Salinas hosts North Salinas on Friday.