It all started with a walk.
Mission High School senior shortstop Mark Bradford took four straight pitches to start Wednesday afternoon’s game against cross-neighborhood opponent John O’Connell, and then scored from first base on a Steven Zhuo sacrifice bunt.
After that, the Bears didn’t look back for two full days.
Mission rolled to a 13-0 win over O’Connell on Wednesday, and then the Bears turned around and blasted the Boilermakers 19-2 just 24 hours later. Bradford scored seven runs in the series, helping Mission score four first-inning runs on Wednesday and 11 in the opening frame on Thursday.
“Once we got it going, we knew we needed to keep it up,” Bradford said after Wednesday’s win. “You never want to take a team lightly.”
While Bradford was the spark that got Mission’s offense going, senior first baseman Aharon Herbert provided the power to move the Bears past O’Connell in dominating fashion. Herbert batted 5-for-8 on the series and drove in seven runs.
Ryan Mullaney earned his second win of the season on Wednesday, shutting out the Boilermakers.
“He was just solid the whole game,” Bears coach Dan Grossman said of Mullaney’s performance. “We expect that from him.”
Junior Jonathan Sanchez struck out six batters en route to the Thursday win. Mullaney and Sanchez both pitched complete games, but each contest was cut to five innings by a Caifornia Interscholastic Federation rule that ends a game when one team is winning by 10 or more runs after five innings.
Although the schools are less than a mile apart from each other, neither considers the baseball matchup a rivalry. Both schools have struggled in recent years, and while Mission is fielding a competitive team this season—the Bears are 3-6 and 2-3 in the San Francisco Section—O’Connell has yet to win a game.
“We really had to recruit athletes from other sports just to field a team and keep the program going,” O’Connell athletic director Bob Gamino said in a telephone interview. “This is a team made up of mostly soccer players and wrestlers.”
Gamino said that the schools’ close proximity does contribute to rivalries in other sports, such as soccer, volleyball, wrestling and even badminton. But in baseball, his Boilermakers will need to become more competitive to call Mission a true rival.
“This is a team we expect to do well against,” Grossman said of O’Connell. “So it’s not much of a rivalry.”
Grossman listed Marshall and Balboa among the teams that Mission considers rivals. But while the skill gap persists, the Bears and Boilermakers share at least one thing in common—they’re both nomads.
Mission hosted Wednesday’s game, even though it was played at Jackson Field, which is actually closer to O’Connell’s campus than it is to Mission’s. O’Connell was technically the home team for Thursday’s matchup, but it was played at Balboa Park, more than three miles from the Boilermakers’ school.
The Bears made one thing clear this week, however. No matter where the games are played, they still rule the Mission. The 10-inning, 32-run series was the Bears’ most dominating two-day performance in more than two years.
“We really did what we needed to do,” Bradford said. “We just have to keep it going.”