For the first time in nine years, Corona del Mar High will play in the second round of the CIF Southern Section baseball playoffs.
The Sea Kings got out of the first round in a big way, routing host Riverside Woodcrest Christian 15-4 in a Division 2 game on Thursday.
CdM (20-6) will play at home against No. 3-seeded Yucaipa (24-5) in the second round on Tuesday. Yucaipa, which shared the Citrus Belt League title, beat visiting Glendora 7-3 in the first round on Thursday.
A freshman on a senior-laden team helped the Sea Kings advance. Blake Butcher, the No. 9 hitter, went two for three with four runs batted in and a double.
"This was huge," said Butcher, whose team bounced back after getting blanked 1-0 in nine innings by Woodbridge in the final Pacific Coast League game on May 10. "We lost our last game to Woodbridge, so to come out today and score 15 runs was a big confidence booster. For us to go into the next round with this win is huge."
The Sea Kings, the second-place team from the Pacific Coast League, struck first in the top of the first inning. Their first run scored on an error, then Luc Stuka doubled in a run.
Chazz Martinez, who went two for three with five RBIs, singled in a run in the second inning to put CdM up 3-0.
But Woodcrest Christian (17-6) would tie it at 3-3 with two outs in the second inning. The first run scored on Carson Cody's groundout, then Gavin Lowther singled in a run and Evan Castillo doubled in a run.
The Sea Kings regrouped in the top of the third with Kieran Sidebotham, Reece Berger and Alex Rosen singling to load the bases. Then Nick Rottler drew a walk to send Sidebotham home to take the lead. Butcher came up next and delivered a two-run double.
CdM scored two more times in a six-run inning, giving it a 9-3 lead. The Sea Kings were on their way to earning their first postseason win since 2012, when they won in the wild-card round.
"The young guys contributed," said Martinez, referring to Butcher, and Sidebotham and Rottler, both sophomores. "We kind of switched the lineup up today and it worked out. Everyone in the lineup contributed today. That's what happens when we come together."
The big inning was more than enough run support for CdM starter Tommy Wilcox, who went five innings to improve to 10-1. The right-hander allowed four runs on nine hits, one of those a solo home run to Jordan Keller in the fifth.
Rosen went two for two with four runs scored, while Preston Hartsell and Sidebotham each had two hits.
"Butch was clutch today," said CdM coach John Emme, who is in his 21st and final season in charge of the Sea Kings. "He had four RBIs, and when you get that out of your nine hole with all your big guys coming up after that, that's tough for the other team to stomach."