The 64th annual San Diego Lions baseball tournament is in the books, and while a South County team didn’t win one of the eight division titles at this year’s 128-team event, the Otay Ranch Mustangs, Eastlake Titans and Bonita Vista Barons did make some noise by advancing to the semifinals in their respective divisions.
Otay Ranch, 3-0 in Classic Division pool play, dropped a tight 3-2 decision to eventual division champion Rancho Bernardo, while Eastlake — 3-0 in Premier Division pool play — fell, 3-0, to eventual division runner-up Steele Canyon, and Bonita Vista, 3-0 in 5A Division pool play, dropped a narrow 5-4 setback to division runner-up Santana.
Otay Ranch may have made the most noise among local teams in this year’s tournament by shutting down nationally-ranked Clovis North, 2-0, to complete pool play undefeated following previous wins against seventh-ranked Valhalla (5-4) and sixth-ranked Carlsbad (14-2) in the April 14-17 tournament.
Clovis North entered tourney play ranked fifth among Southern California teams behind top-ranked Clovis, which they had defeated, 7-6, in league play.
The Mustangs didn’t exactly draw chopped liver in the semifinals: Rancho Bernardo entered the April 17 contest at CSU San Marcos ranked second among San Diego Section teams.
After dispatching the Mustangs on a two-run home run by Casey Henderson, the Broncos tamed the 12th-ranked Granite Hills Eagles, 6-0, to take over the No. 1 section ranking.
Henderson, the winning pitcher in last year’s Open Division championship game against Granite Hills, came on in relief to put out the fire in a late Otay Ranch rally in the semifinal, stranding the potential game-tying and game-winning runs on base. The RB senior started the championship game, tossing a three-hit shutout against the potent Eagles (11-5).
“In the RB game, we had a chance to beat them,” ORHS coach Bob McCurdy noted. “We had a runner on second and a runner on first but their pitcher struck out one of our best hitters and Eddie Melendrez then hit a shot to right field that their outfielder made a diving catch on. Two inches over and we win the game.”
Eddie Alvarez cleared the bases with a triple in the five-inning run-rule-shortened contest against Carlsbad. He finished the game with three hits in four plate appearances with four RBI. Adrian Tovalin collected three RBI in the big win while Anton Melendez and Markus Melin each drove in two runs.
Alec Godoy picked up the win on the hill by scattering seven hits.
McCurdy said the key to toppling the sixth-ranked Lancers was being patient while picking off fastballs at the plate.
Otay Ranch used timely pitching and defense to strand a total of 12 Valhalla runners on base in the teams’ tourney opener. The Mustangs managed to successfully work out of three bases-loaded jams.
In the masterpiece win over Clovis North, junior Andre Avalos fired a complete game while scattering eight hits. “He shut them down, he was hitting his spots,” McCurdy said. “His off-speed pitches were spot-on. They didn’t get anything.”
Alvarez tripled home Melendez for one run while Alvarez later doubled and scored on a base hit by Adrian Tovalin.
“Overall, we played some of our best baseball,” McCurdy explained. “Over the tournament, our pitching was outstanding.”
Eastlake entered the Lions tournament ranked 10th among section teams. The Titans defeated, in order, Temecula Chaparral (7-1), Pacific Pallisades (11-1) and Torrey Pines (1-0) while displaying an obvious combination of power and defense in gliding through pool play undefeated. Eastlake then advanced to the division semifinals along with Steele Canyon, Helix and Ramona.
Helix edged Ramona, 2-1, in the other semifinal to draw Steele Canyon for the division championship. The Highlanders blanked the Grossmont Hills League rival Cougars, 1-0, to win the division title.
Bonita Vista finished 3-0 in pool play to earn a trip to the division semifinals at Westview High School. The Barons toppled Henderson (Nev.) Foothill (3-2), Vista Calvary Christian (1-0) and La Jolla (5-2) in pool play to advance against Santana.
Danny Siwek pitched a complete game four-hitter in the tourney opener while striking out 11 batters. Eduardo Perez, Parker Flippen and Daniel Schneemann each crossed the plate for the winners.
The Barons managed just three hits in the game against Calvary Christian but managed to push across the winning run in the 10th inning as Esteban Velasco delivered the game-winning hit. Perez went the first eight innings for Bonita Vista, allowing two hits while Kevin McCann picked up the win with two innings of hitless relief.
Bonita Vista used four pitchers to scatter five hits and strike out seven batters in the win over La Jolla. Brandon Torio, who hurled five innings while issuing three hits and striking out six batters, earned credit for the win.
In the semifinal match-up against the Sultans, the Barons coughed up an early 2-1 lead, then fought back from a 4-3 deficit to send the game into extra innings. But Santana pulled out the victory — and a trip to the championship game — with a run in the eighth inning. The Barons, who received run-scoring hits from Perez and Schneemann, were limited to three hits in the loss.
“Our offense was light all tournament but our pitching was spectacular,” BV coach Vince Gervais said. “On Monday we won 3-2 giving up only four hits; on Tuesday, we gave up two hits in 10 innings, winning 1-0; and on Wednesday we gave up five hits and two runs, winning 5-2. This continued on Thursday as we held Santana to only six hits but lost the game in eight innings.”
The Barons’ many pitching stars include Torio, Ricky Reynoso, Perez, McCann, John Freeman, Israel Rodriguez, Scott Beckstrom and Schneemann.
In other divisional play in this year’s Lions tournament:
Christian advanced to the 3A semifinals at Mater Dei Catholic High School, dropping an 8-6 decision to eventual division runner-up Escondido.
Defending Division III section champion San Ysidro dropped a 2-0 decision to visiting Grossmont in a consolation game played April 17 to finish 0-4 in tournament play. Braden Barr hurled a complete-game six-hit shutout for the Foothillers (7-8). The Cougars, who dropped to 6-10 on the season, finished 0-3 in pool play with losses against Ramona (8-0), Coronado (16-4) and La Costa Canyon (4-0).
Montgomery battled visiting Valhalla to a 1-1 stalemate through 10 innings in another tournament consolation game on April 17. The Aztecs, who finished with one win, two losses and one tie in the tourney to extend their record to 7-8-2 on the season, got their lone run of the contest in the second inning on a squeeze bunt by Omar Gonzalez to score Herman Alvarado from third base.
Hilltop also saw action in four tournament games, finishing 2-2 in 5A Division play. The Lancers (5-11) finished 2-1 in pool play with wins over Nevada Union (11-7) and Thousand Oaks (4-3). Hilltop’s two losses were to Coronado (9-4 and 5-0).
Chula Vista (5-12) finished 0-4 in the 4A Division with narrow setbacks to Salt Lake City Brighton (6-4), Downey Warren (4-2), Valley Center (3-2) and Point Loma (2-0).
Four Metro teams competed in the 3A Division: Mater Dei Catholic, Castle Park, Mar Vista and Olympian. Mar Vista (9-7) finished 2-1 with wins over Taft (7-0) and Christian (4-3). Mater Dei Catholic (7-10) finished 1-2 with a 14-1 victory against Mission Bay while Olympian (7-10) finished 1-3 with a win over North Hollywood (6-5). Castle Park (5-8) opened tourney play with losses to Sacramento McClatchy (11-8) and Reseda Cleveland (3-2) before engaging Horizon Christian Academy.
In 2A Division play, Southwest (8-9) finished 1-2 with a 2-1 victory against Calexico while Sweetwater (6-11) finished 0-3.
Bonita Vista, Eastlake take early Metro-Mesa League lead
The Bonita Vista Barons and Eastlake Titans took the early lead in the Metro-Mesa League baseball standings by each scoring victories in Tuesday’s league openers. Bonita Vista defeated host Olympian, 6-4, while Eastlake captured a come-from-behind slugfest by a score of 12-7 at Mater Dei Catholic.
The Barons (1-0 in league, 13-7 overall) captured their league opener on the coattails of three big hits: a double by sophomore Andres Velasco in the fifth inning, a two-run home run by senior Eduardo Perez and a three-run triple to ice the game by junior Danny Schneemann in the sixth inning.
Perez started and pitched five innings while Kevin McCann pitched the final two frames to earn the victory.
Eastlake 12, Mater Dei 7
The Titans (1-0 in league, 14-4 overall) trailed, 6-2, through four innings but used an eight-run fifth inning to turn the tables on the Crusaders en route to taking a 10-6 lead. Isaac Vargas picked up the win to improve to 5-0 on the season.
Spencer Sundahl went two-for-four at the plate with three RBI while Ben Ramirez went two-for-four with a double, triple and two RBI, Dean Nevarez and Angel Estrada each went two-for-three with one RBI, and Casey Schmitt finished three-for-four at the plate with two doubles and one RBI.
Bonita Vista 8, Olympian 2
Eastlake 4, Mater Dei Catholic 1
Metro-Mesa League Standings
Eastlake 2-0, 15-4
Bonita Vista 2-0, 14-7
Otay Ranch 0-0, 16-5
Mater Dei Catholic 0-2, 7-12
Olympian 0-2, 7-12