Foothill High has always put out baseball teams of high quality, but an outright East Bay Athletic League title had eluded the Falcons since 1988.
Not any longer.
The Falcons had captured the Valley Division title of the EBAL in the past, but they had never got over the hump of the Mountain Division winner -- until May 13 when they knocked off De La Salle 4-1 in the EBAL Championship Game.
The team earned the top seed in the North Coast Section Division I playoffs and as of this writing have advanced to the semifinals.
Regardless of what happens this week, the Falcons will be hanging an EBAL championship banner in the Foothill gym at the end of the season.
"It feels good, good to get one of these," Foothill coach Angelo Scavone said. "I think we've played for a dozen titles and never got one."
Scavone has a connection to the 1988 team; he was the best player on the team and was the winner of the Tri-Valley Herald Spring Athlete of the Year.
There are other connections to the 1988 team. Nick Walsh, the second-baseman for this year's team, is the son of Kevin Walsh, who was a powerhouse pitcher for the 1988 team.
Another Foothill athletic connection -- Kevin Comerford was a tennis player for Foothill in 1988, with his son Brendan now the starting shortstop for the Falcons this year.
Kevin Walsh was a dominant athlete at Foothill in both football, where he was a hard-hitting middle-linebacker, and baseball as a pitcher. His son Nick has been a three-year starter at quarterback for the Falcons, leading the football team to the EBAL Valley title and a spot in the NCS finals. On the baseball field he starts at second.
"Kevin was super powerful," Scavone said of his former teammate. "Nick is more finesse, but both of them are super competitive."
Kevin said the title chase was a point of conversation all season.
"If anything, it's pretty cool," Kevin said. "I was using that as motivation throughout the year. I was telling him not to let your dad one-up you."
So, who does dad think is the better player?
"I would say all-around baseball player (Nick) is better by far," Kevin said. "Hitting and fielding -- he is playing a lot more games."
For Nick Walsh, taking the baseball title puts an exclamation point on his senior season that started by leading the Foothill football team to an EBAL title as well.
"It's amazing," Nick said of the two titles. "We are going to be hanging two banners in the gym and they will be there forever. Kids will be able to look at them and think that they will want to hang one as well."
And it was the football title that spurred the pursuit of a baseball one.
"After football, the goal was to win an EBAL baseball title for my family and the school," said the younger Walsh.
When asked for comparisons between the two teams, Scavone was quick to answer.
"There is a little bit of similarity on the mound," the coach said. "But we could both pound the ball and play really good defense. There really seems to be no weakness on either team."
Scavone pointed to current left-fielder Payton McMillian as another comparison between the two teams.
"Payton is the best left-fielder I have seen at Foothill since Dave Burnham in 1988," Scavone said.
The defense indeed has been huge for Foothill this season. In the EBAL Championship Game win over De La Salle, pitcher Tyler Gebb, who is now 13-1 overall, turned in as dominant performance as I have seen from a pitcher that did not strike out a batter. Gebb forced the Spartans into a number of ground balls, and with a great defense behind you, that's a recipe for success.
"Our two pitchers have really stepped it up this year," Scavone said of Gebb and Jackson Flora, both juniors. "We put a sign in the bullpen this year that said 'PTZ', which stands for 'Pound the Zone'. They all bought in to it."
Gebb, as mentioned above, is 13-1 with an ERA of 1.08. He has allowed 46 hits and struck out 50 batters in 71 innings pitched. Flora is 7-2 with a 1.27 ERA. Flora has allowed 40 hits and struck out 69 in 66 innings.
"Those two have been a surprise this year," Scavone said. "They showed potential as sophomores on the JV team, but both grew up a lot this year."
The No. 3 Foothill pitcher is Ryan Keenan, yet another junior. Keenan is 4-1, with an ERA of 1.99.
At the plate the Falcons have been led by Evan Bilter and Jack Basseer.
Bilter has .438 batting average to lead the team and has driven in 28 runs. Basseer has been the basher, leading the team with 8 home runs and driving in 31 runs to go with his .378 batting average.
Regulars Gabe DeBenedetto (.319), Nick Walsh (.315), Jack Dubos (.305) and Trevor Harmon (.302) are all hitting over .300 this season.
Win or lose in NCS aside, it has been a great ride for the Falcons this season.
Editor's note: Dennis Miller is a contributing sports writer for the Pleasanton Weekly. To contact him about his Pleasanton Preps column, email [email protected]