Baseball is the ultimate sport of large sample sizes.
Major League Baseball (MLB) plays a 162-game regular season to allow the cream to rise to the top, and as the 2022 Los Angeles Dodgers can tell you, three lousy games can undo all of that work.
Yet, in a sport that requires hundreds of opportunities to determine superiority, a group of San Francisco high schoolers will be remembered for one single game.
St. Ignatius and Sacred Heart Cathedral are set to play the Bruce-Mahoney Game at noon on Saturday at Oracle Park, the culmination of a multi-sport series for the famed Bruce-Mahoney Trophy.
“It’s a hard thing, because it’s seven innings of high school baseball. Anything can happen at any time, and it seems to have happened in this game,” Sacred Heart Cathedral head coach Brian Morgan said. “It’s not a good view of the whole season, but it is a good view for the school. Everybody gets fired up to play, that’s for sure.”
SI won volleyball and boys basketball, while SHC came out on top in football and girls basketball. That means the trophy, an award so large it requires a whole team of students to transport it when it changes hands, will come down to a single baseball game.
“Right after the football game, my baseball coach texted me, telling me we’ll get ‘em back in the spring,” said St. Ignatius outfielder Gus Parker, who played wide receiver and cornerback on the Wildcats’ football team. “It’s been on my mind for a while.”
That line drive that lands just fair or foul by two inches? That could be the difference between whether St. Ignatius keeps the trophy in the Sunset District or if the hardware moves to Ellis Street for the first time since 2018.
“We’re glad that it’s down to us,” said St. Ignatius first baseman and pitcher Niko Gomozias, a USF commit. “We can’t wait to get after it. It feels like you’re on stage. The adrenaline is crazy, playing at one of the best big league ballparks in the country.”
The series last came down to the baseball game in 2019, when St. Ignatius scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-3 walk-off win. A year earlier, SHC won the trophy in walk-off fashion, 2-1 on a wild pitch at the end of an enthralling pitcher’s duel.
“We’ve lost it in the last at-bat and won it in the last at-bat,” Morgan said. “I think you see how good a high school player can be when he’s focused. The game seems to bring it out in both sides.”
It all comes down to tomorrow and some of our alumni wanted to call in and wish the team good luck.— Fightin’ Irish Baseball (@Baseball_SHC) March 24, 2023
Thank you, and no matter what happens you’ll always be #ForeverIrish !#Irish9 #HeartOfTheCity
📸: SHC SBO Film and Media pic.twitter.com/BsHTnL5CL4
If the series has another walk-off win in store, it’ll be the Fightin’ Irish who pour out of the dugout to celebrate. Sacred Heart Cathedral (2-6, 0-3 West Catholic Athletic League) is the home team, but St. Ignatius (8-2, 2-1) enters as the presumptive favorite. A lineup anchored by Gomozias, Parker and Patrick Ruane averages 7.7 runs per game.
“Our depth is a strength,” Wildcats head coach Brian Pollzzie said. “We have five or six guys on the bench that could easily start.”
It’ll be the first time the series comes down to a winner-take-all baseball game since the Bruce-Mahoney expanded from a best-of-three to a best-of-five with the introduction of volleyball and girls basketball in the 2021-22 school year. Tickets for Saturday are available to the general public for $20, while kids 12 and under wearing a local youth baseball jersey can enter for $10. The game will be livestreamed on YouTube via the SI Sports Network.
Fans looking to enjoy more of the sun before rain returns to the Bay Area in the following days won’t have to immediately head for the exits after the game ends; Marin Catholic and San Marin will play afterwards. Marin Catholic is coached by Jesse Foppert, who pitched for the San Francisco Giants from 2003 to 2005.
Patrons looking to try Oracle Park’s new food items will likely have to wait until the Giants take the field, though. A small handful of concessions are typically open for the Bruce-Mahoney Game, selling some of the more conventional ballpark staples.