Fri, May 17 2013 10:53 PM Posted By: Phillip Brents
The Hilltop High School baseball team has made a habit of snatching unlikely victories from the apparent jaws of defeat with magical seventh-inning rallies and walk-off wins.
The Lancers’ latest such victory earned them a share of this year’s Mesa League championship title with the Otay Ranch Mustangs.
Liam Beyerle stroked a single into left center field with the bases loaded and one down in the bottom of the seventh inning in Wednesday’s regular season finale against the visiting Eastlake Titans to help secure a 2-1 win for Hilltop.
The dramatic victory gave the Lancers a final 7-3 league record to match that of the Mustangs, who dropped a 3-1 decision to the visiting Bonita Vista Barons — and ace hurler Matt Ball — on Wednesday.
“We got the job done,” Hilltop coach Kurt Gritts said. “April was a bad month for us, now we’re into May.”
Eastlake had blanked the Lancers, 3-0, on Monday to drop Gritts’ team out of a first-place tie with Otay Ranch.
The Lancers and Titans entered Wednesday’s game tied, sitting one game behind the front-running Mustangs, who had clinched no worse than a co-championship courtesy of Monday’s 6-2 win at BVHS.
Wednesday’s Hilltop-Eastlake winner was thus in line to earn a share of the league banner providing Otay Ranch lost on Wednesday, which it did as Ball struck out 12 batters.
Justin Sparby raised his record to 7-3 by pitching a complete game four-hitter. Sparby also drove in the game’s first run on an infield hit in the bottom of the fifth inning to break a scoreless duel between the teams.
The Titans (6-4 in league, 17-10 overall) tied the game in the top of the seventh as 2009 Park View Blue Bombers star Luke Ramirez delivered a clutch RBI single.
However, the bottom of the seventh inning started off badly for Eastlake’s Roberto Mendevil after walking Hilltop’s lead batter, Danny Goodrich. Though Goodrich was forced out at second base on a bunt attempt by Jesus Montezuma, Steve Sherwood followed with a booming double to the wall in left field to place runners at second and third bases with one down.
Sparby was intentionally walked to load the bases for a potential double play. But Beyerle crossed up Eastlake’s strategy with a solid single.
“The starting pitching has been very good for us,” Gritts said. “The pitching was good by both teams in this series. We got one today and they got one on Monday.”
The Lancers, who finished regular season play 21-10, pulled one out of the magician’s hat last Friday. Hilltop trailed the Barons and Ball, 1-0, until the visitors exploded for five runs in the seventh inning to post a 5-1 win. Ball had been working on a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts before a pair of errors opened the door of opportunity for the Lancers.
Sparby got the complete game victory last Friday. The Titans made the most of their three hits on Monday to score three runs.
Gritts said his team will start from scratch in the upcoming Division II playoffs. “I am hoping we get at least one home game,” he said.
Otay Ranch’s win on Monday knocked Bonita Vista (6-4, 17-12) out of championship contention. Alec Rios tossed the first six innings, scattering four hits; Alex Kuisel closed out the final inning with the tying run at the plate.
The Mustangs (22-8 overall) erased an early 1-0 Baron lead with five runs in the top of the second inning and added another run in the top of the third inning to jump out in front 6-1.
Jaime Dorado doubled to score two runs in the Mustangs’ second-inning outburst.
Monday’s victory built on last Friday’s 11-0 win at Mater Dei Catholic. Alec Godoy hit two home runs in the game — a solo shot in the first inning and a grand slam in the third inning. Adrian Tovalin also homered in the game.
“We’ve been solid all season,” ORHS coach Bob McCurdy said. “If we limit our mistakes, we’re a pretty good ball club.”
Twelve teams qualify for post-season play in Division I through Division IV. The divisional play-in round is scheduled Tuesday, May 21, followed by the opening round of double-elimination play on Wednesday, May 22.
McCurdy feels his team has to be considered among the favorites in the Division I bracket at this point. “I think we have a good chance of winning it,” he said.
In South Bay League play, Montgomery defeated host Chula Vista, 8-1, on Monday to clinch the league championship. Herman Alvarado tossed a four-hitter while Jonathan Villa drove in three runs.
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