For much of Tuesday's key Orange Coast League baseball game against Estancia, it appeared that Laguna Beach would even things up with Eagles.
The Breakers were on the verge of putting their season series with Estancia at 1-1, but the Eagles rallied late to score single runs in both the bottom of the sixth and seventh innings to pull out a 2-1 victory. The setback cost the defending-champion Breakers a shot at moving into a tie for second place in the league standings and closer to league-leading Calvary Chapel.
Laguna scored their only run in the top of fifth and had runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings, yet couldn't punch in another run.
"We had great at-bats today, pitched very well, (but) a couple errors in the field made the difference," Laguna Coach Mike Bair said. "We were prepared to play today, even with the layoff, but just couldn't get the clutch RBI hit."
Laguna took its 1-0 lead on a run-scoring single by Grant Wilhelm. With just one out in the fifth, the Breakers could have done more damage with runners on second and third, but left both on base.
Estancia was down to its final out in the bottom of the sixth when Ben Beck, who opened with a single and moved to second, scored on a triple to right field by Steven Macias that tied the score. Laguna had a golden scoring opportunity in the top of the seventh, but again couldn't score.
Juniors Adam Rodner and Robbie McInerny both singled to start the inning but the potential scoring threat fizzled when the Eagles turned a double play off a Wilhelm line drive out to center field. A batter later, Macias, who pitched a complete game, got Blake Hester to ground out to shortstop.
In the bottom of the seventh, Beck singled in the winning run.
Rodner went two for three with a double and scored the lone Laguna run. Wilhelm also went two for three and also pitched a complete game. The sophomore, now 5-2, struck out three.
Macias struck out five but gave up eight hits in improving his record to 5-2. He also led the Eagles offensively with a three-for-three day.
The loss left Laguna at 4-4 in league and 11-7 overall. One of those defeats came to Estancia (10-6) in a March 16 league opener for both teams. Estancia improved to 6-2 in league and 11-6 overall. Calvary Chapel, a 22-0 winner Tuesday over Saddleback, is 7-1.
Laguna completes its three-game league series with Estancia with a 3:15 p.m. home game Friday. Bair said junior pitcher Jackson Rees will start for the Breakers.
The Breakers come back next week for a two-game series with Calvary Chapel on Tuesday and April 27. Both are 3:15 p.m. starts.
Wins in their next three contests would put the Breakers back in the race.
"We need a win Friday to help our chances in making the league title (chase) interesting, and securing our hopes for a CIF berth," Bair said.
The Breakers returned to action Tuesday but showed signs of rust from not having played since March 30, dropping a 13-3 decision at Godinez in Orange Coast League play.
Laguna trailed, 6-3, but loaded the bases with two out. Sophomore Jordan Hartman, batting in the No. 2 slot, hit a lined out to end the rally.
Freshman second baseman Katyn Ott went two for two with a double and run batted in. Freshman center fielder Jen Sorenson walked and scored on Ott's double. Halle Redfearn (4-3), also a freshman, pitched a complete game with two strikeouts.
The loss put Laguna at 1-2 in league (third place) and 9-6 overall.
"Our three freshmen led us today," Laguna Coach Alan Ludloff said. "Katyn Ott had a great offensive game and made a diving stop up the middle and threw a fast runner out. Jen Sorenson was solid in center and scored our other run. Halle Redfearn never quit on the mound. We needed to give her more support defensively."
The Breakers were playing their first game since March 30, when they defeated La Quinta of Westminster in a nonleague game.
"A lot of our team didn't even pick up a ball over spring break, partly due to all the rain," Ludloff said. "That really showed in (us) making nine errors. We picked it up in practice (Wednesday) and afterward had a team meeting. They decided we were going to put this game behind us and get back on another winning streak."
Laguna gets its chance to start that win streak Friday. The Breakers host Costa Mesa in a 3:30 p.m. league game at Thurston Middle School. Ludloff said junior all-league pitcher Haley Putnam (5-3) will start against the Mustangs.
"She is one of our team captains and I expect her to come out strong and set the tone for us," he said. "Now each league game is pivotal for us. We need to know we can bounce back after a big loss and finish the season strong. With only seven games left, we need to treat each one as a playoff game if we want to qualify for CIF.
Next week, the Breakers play Saddleback at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday at Thurston.