In the stadium that Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw calls home, it was only fitting on Friday night that two high school pitchers did their best trying to live up to the standard of the Dodgers' ace.
With the Southern Section Division 1 championship on the line at Dodger Stadium, Griffin Canning of Santa Margarita and Hudson Hughes of Santa Ana Foothill refused to give in to the hitters through five innings of a scoreless deadlock.
Finally, in the top of the sixth inning, Santa Margarita (20-10-1) broke through to score three runs and came away with its first baseball championship, a 3-1 victory over Foothill.
"It's unreal," Canning said while trying to hold back tears. "All this hard work has paid off. It's pretty emotional. It's the last game with my guys, but it's definitely worth it."
Canning, a UCLA signee who was the pitcher of the year in the Trinity League, turned in a memorable performance in his final high school game. He struck out 11, allowed two hits and overcame control issues in the final two innings with five of his six walks.
"I guess they were missing," he said of his pitches. "I kept battling and my defense picked me up with two huge double plays."
Hughes struck out nine and allowed five hits in suffering his first defeat.
In the sixth inning, with one out and a runner on second, Canning put down a bunt. Foothill third baseman Randell Kanemaru threw wildly to first, scoring the game's first run. Nick Meyer and Jordan Steele followed with RBI singles for a 3-0 Santa Margarita lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Foothill loaded the bases with none out on a single and two walks. Canning's third walk of the inning forced in a run. Canning got Cameron Liederman to hit a soft line drive caught by shortstop J.J. Carr, who stepped on second for a double play. Canning ended the inning with a strikeout of Dillon Brown.
In the seventh, Canning walked the first two batters before getting another double play and ending the game with a fly-ball out.
"Best pitcher ever!" a Santa Margarita teammate shouted afterward.
It was the sixth Southern Section title this sports season for Santa Margarita.