Trailing early with its season on the line, the Estancia High baseball team found itself in desperate need of a spark on Friday.
Nick Mazur delivered an answer.
He tossed a complete game, allowed one earned run and went two for two at the plate with a run batted in. The performance lifted the host Eagles to a 3-2 comeback win over Anaheim in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs.
The victory marked Estancia's first playoff win since 2013, and its fourth overall in 26 years.
"He's our senior captain, and we put a lot of trust in him," Estancia coach Kevin Conlin said of Mazur. "With the ball in his hands, he knows what he's doing. We put him in a lot of tough situations this year, and he's found a way to get through it and learn from it. He's stepped up and been a leader."
Estancia (18-12) has a second-round game on Tuesday at Pico Rivera El Rancho (18-11), which no-hit Santa Paula during its playoff opener.
Friday's game started with the Colonists taking a 1-0 lead. Anaheim (12-17) recorded five total hits off Mazur during its first time through the lineup, with a pair of one-out singles setting up an opportunity to add to the lead in the second.
It was here where the game began to turn for the Eagles, as their standout right-hander discovered his groove on the mound.
Mazur recorded two straight outs to escape the inning, the first of eight consecutive batters retired.
"I got on the mound a little nervous with it being … round one [in CIF]," Mazur said. "After that first, I just knew the defense had my back and I was really confident the rest of the game. Threw a lot of strikes, they were swinging and I kept a low pitch count, which kept me in the whole game."
Still trailing in the bottom of the fourth, Mazur made his impact felt in the batter's box.
Brian Rodriguez was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on the base paths, and advanced to second on a groundout by Garrett Palme. Next to the plate was Mazur, who tied the game on an RBI single to center.
Anaheim was not shaken up by the momentum shift, answering right back thanks to head-up base running by Rudolfo Lopez. He singled, then stole second, before scoring on an error by Estancia.
It did not take long for the Eagles to respond.
Jake Alai laid a perfect bunt down the third-base line for a two-out single, sparking a decisive rally in the bottom of the fifth. Joe Stukkie launched a double to the center-field fence during the next at-bat to bring home the tying run.
"Coach gave me the sign, and I was kind of nervous," Alai said of his crucial bunt single. "But I said, 'OK.' I put it down and got on first. Next play, [we] scored."
Next up was Hayden Pearce, who drove in Stukkie and put the Eagles ahead for good with a triple into the right-field corner.
"The kids just persevered," Conlin said. "Talk about playing seven innings. Things started out kind of shaky, and we just battled through, pitch-by-pitch, for seven innings. That's a character win. Our guys have come a long way as far as character is concerned throughout the season, so I'm really proud of them."