It was only a few days ago that San Clemente was the toast of North Carolina after improving to 12-0 and winning the National High School Invitational. The team rose to No. 1 in The Times' rankings and No. 2 in one national poll.
On Tuesday, the Tritons received a reality check courtesy of left-hander Patrick Sandoval of Mission Viejo. In another lesson how one pitcher can make a huge difference, Sandoval struck out eight, walked none and allowed two hits in the Diablos' 3-0 Sea View League win at San Clemente.
"I was fired up for this game," said Sandoval, a Vanderbilt signee whose fastball was clocked in the low 90s. "I know they went out to North Carolina and beat a bunch of good teams, and I just wanted to prove we are as good as them."
Mission Viejo (8-4, 3-0) got its biggest hit from Cole Joy, who contributed a two-run triple during a three-run third inning.
After that, Sandoval was never really threatened. The only San Clemente hitter to cause problems was UCLA-bound catcher Lucas Herbert, who had two doubles. Otherwise, Sandoval was in complete charge, using his curveball to set up his fastball with pinpoint control.
"Every time he comes out, he's ready to go full throttle," catcher Zack Sharpley said. "His curveball was his out pitch all day. This was the game to win this year. We faced a good team and he put the team on his back."
Sandoval showed tremendous potential as a junior, but he was occasionally wild, with walks and hit batters showing up along with his strikeouts. But he spent the fall playing football, which he said left him tougher, refreshed and mentally ready for his senior baseball season.
"I like to attack hitters now, throwing first pitches for strikes," he said. "Playing football helped my mindset."