Almost two weeks had gone by since the last time Hagen Danner took the mound for Huntington Beach High.
The lengthy time off in between starts didn’t affect the right-hander much.
The Oilers opted to go with Danner in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs, and he did not disappoint.
The senior went five strong innings at home, striking out five and allowing one run on three hits in top-seeded Huntington Beach’s 11-1 rout of Redondo Union on Thursday.
Danner improved to 11-0, eliminating the Sea Hawks, which won the Division 3 crown the past two years, early in the playoffs. He also helped his cause by going two for four with three runs batted in.
Two days before the postseason opener, Danner found out he was getting the ball.
“I was excited to get back out there,” said Danner, whose previous start came in the Boras Classic state tournament final against San Jose Bellarmine Prep at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium on May 6. “I’ve definitely had better outings. [My] curveball was not there the entire game, and [I was] getting a little frustrated for not being able to throw it for strikes, but I got my fastball over for strikes. I’m glad I had my fastball.”
It would be hard for any pitcher to match what Danner had going in his last outing, a no-hitter with one out in the seventh.
While Danner wasn’t as dominant as he was in his complete game win against Bellarmine Prep, he only threw 81 pitches against the Sea Hawks. He also walked two.
Because of the number of pitches, Coach Benji Medure said Danner would be able to catch Nick Pratto (3-0, 1.15 earned-run average) in the second round, and possibly come in and close.
The Oilers (27-4) are heading to Servite (19-12) on Tuesday. The Friars advanced by edging host Cypress 4-3 in nine innings on Thursday.
For Medure, the next round will be a family affair.
“I have a cousin that plays on their team,” said Medure, referring to Greg Carlos. “He’s like a second or third cousin, so my whole family will be there.”
Many fans came out to support the Oilers, ranked No. 1 in the state by CalHiSports.com, in the first round. And they had a lot to get excited about in the first two innings.
Huntington Beach took a 2-0 lead in the first inning against Danny Zimmerman, a 6 feet 4 right-hander committed to Michigan. Ben McConnell led off with a single up the middle, and Pratto followed with a double to left field, his first of two doubles.
The left-fielder, Xavier Cojulun, had a hard time making the catch against the fence.
“That hill [in left field] is tough for someone who hasn’t been there before,” Medure said. “The ball was [also] in the sun. We benefited from that.”
McConnell raced home on a pitch the catcher blocked, only to see it slowly bounce toward third. Zimmerman got off the mound, but he fell hard.
He was unable to get to the ball as McConnell scored the first of his two runs.
“I don’t know if that affected him for the rest of the game,” Medure said of Zimmerman’s spill, “but our game plan was to make him work all day.”
Danner drove in two runs with a single to center field in the second inning to give Huntington Beach a 4-0 lead.
After the Sea Hawks (17-12) ended Danner’s shutout bid in the top of the fourth, with Jake Thau singling in a run, the Oilers broke the game open in the bottom half of the inning.
Danner and Trevor Windisch each singled in a run, and then with two runners on, Nick Lopez homered for the second time in as many games. His three-run shot over the fence in left-center field put the Oilers up 9-1.
Zimmerman (2-5) exited after giving up nine runs on eight hits, and walking four and hitting one in 3 2/3 innings. Half of the hits went for extra bases, including a double by Justin Cianca, who had two in the game.
“The kid hit his first home run last game that we played against Newport Harbor, and it was a grand slam,” Danner said of Lopez. “He’s on fire.”
CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs
Huntington Beach 11, Redondo Union 1
Redondo 000 100 0 – 1 4 1
Huntington 220 502 x – 11 10 2
Zimmerman, Wilson (4), Dunham (6) and Grace; Danner, Madole (6), Hahn (7) and Lopez. W – Danner, 11-0. L – Zimmerman, 2-5. 2B – Pratto (HB) 2, Cianca (HB) 2. HR – Lopez (HB).