COSTA MESA — Nate Goellrich experienced the Battle for the Bell rivalry for the first time in the other dugout. A fan yelled "Traitor!" when Goellrich returned to Costa Mesa High on Friday coaching the rival school.
Goellrich said he never heard the heckler. He only cared about what happened to his new team, Estancia, between the lines.
"The fans can say what they want," Goellrich said. "I'm happy."
Goellrich left the field, where he spent the previous four seasons as an assistant, with a big smile. His Eagles came back to beat the Mustangs, 5-3, winning the first game of the three-game baseball series.
The win was crucial for a couple of reasons. The Eagles bounced back three days after suffering their first Orange Coast League setback. They're one game back of first-place Calvary Chapel, which Estancia plays twice next week.
Estancia (9-2, 4-1 in league) managed to stay near the top by knocking off the Mustangs.
Goellrich's old team is still searching for its first league victory. The last time Costa Mesa won a league contest, Goellrich was on staff.
The Mustangs came close to ending an 11-game losing streak in league dating back to last season. They took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, and Goellrich expected the hosts to come out fired up.
"We just had to withstand the first punch from them," said Goellrich, whose Eagles had more than a puncher's chance to get back in it.
They responded with three runs in the second inning, tying the game. From then on, starter Andres Hernandez took over with his right arm.
The senior is the Eagles' ace for a reason. He struck out a career-high 12 batters, while allowing only one earned run and seven hits.
When he got to a dozen, he had no idea. All that mattered to Hernandez was the 12th strikeout ended the game.
The Mustangs (3-10, 0-6) had runners on the corners with two outs when Hernandez threw a fastball, hitting the outside corner and getting the hitter out looking in the bottom of the seventh. He recorded the first two outs in the inning in the same fashion, freezing the Mustangs on third called strikes.
Hernandez (2-0) out-dueled Costa Mesa starter Logan Benter (0-4). The difference, beside the 12 strikeouts by Hernandez, was the Eagles scored two runs in the seventh to break a tie.
The support was more than enough for Hernandez, who shut out Costa Mesa in the last six innings. He struck out 11 and allowed only three hits and three walks during the impressive stretch.
"You can't ask for anything better," Goellrich said.
Hernandez also helped himself out at the plate.
In the seventh, he recorded his first hit, a single to drive in the Eagles' second run in the inning.
How the first run came around to score involved a close call, well before the runner reached home plate.
With the leadoff batter on, Ben Beck bunted toward the third-base line. Benter fielded the ball with his right hand and fired to first base to get Beck, but the first baseman dropped the ball.
Costa Mesa Coach Jason Smith said there was a reason why the ball came out of his first baseman's glove.
"We had the guy inside the line and throwing the elbow and making contact with our first baseman, which jarred the ball from him," said Smith, who argued with the umpiring crew, hoping to get an interference call on the runner.
The crew didn't change the call and Beck earned his second hit.
Beck found his way home a couple of batters later. A bad hop let him motor around from second.
Levi Stillman, who went three for three, hit a routine grounder to second base, but it took a high bounce before Justin Fisher could get his glove on it. The ball went off his shoulder and toward center field, allowing the Eagles to take a 4-3 lead.
They weren't finished hurting Benter. He hurt himself by beaning Tyler Rios for the third straight time in the game.
At no point did the home plate umpire warn Benter. Goellrich came out to talk to the umpire to protect Rios, his No. 3 hitter, who doubled off Benter in his first at-bat.
"I don't think any of them were intentional," Goellrich said of the pitches that hit Rios. "I know Logan. I know Logan wouldn't do that. He's a competitor. He wants to compete. They're not going to hit him [on purpose] in that situation in a close game."
Orange Coast League
Estancia 5, Costa Mesa 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
Estancia 030 000 2 – 5 12 3
Mesa 300 000 0 – 3 7 4
Hernandez and Pearce; Benter and Hayes. W – Hernandez, 2-0. L – Benter, 0-4. 2B – Rios (E).Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times