Baseball: Sailors keep playoff hopes alive

The six seniors on the Newport Harbor High baseball team had no idea what was going to hit them in the face.

As they lined up outside the dugout to take what they thought was a photo on senior day, younger teammates surprised them from behind. They pushed cream pies into the seniors' faces, a couple threw them. Some pies hit their intended targets, others missed.

Moments earlier, the Sailors avoided an even more embarrassing moment on the field. And boy are they thankful they managed to at home on Tuesday.

The Sailors committed two errors in the top of the seventh, and almost a third, giving up a run, before they held on for a 4-3 win against Marina in a crucial Sunset League game. The Sailors kept their CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoff hopes alive.

One more win and Coach Evan Chalmers expects his Sailors to earn an at-large berth into the postseason. The next contest wraps up league play on Thursday, when the same teams meet again, this time at Marina at 3:15 p.m.

"Lucky No. 13," said Chalmers, referring to the win total the Sailors need to reach to earn a wild-card playoff game, their first in four years.

Newport Harbor is one shy of that number. For consideration as an at-large entry, the Sailors have to post at least a .500 overall record. The Sailors barely improved to 12-13.

The fourth-place team in a daunting league edged the last-place team. Last is where the Sailors have finished the past three seasons. Two seniors, Shaun Vetrovec and Connor Seabold, have changed the program's losing ways.

Vetrovec is the one who with the bases loaded in the second inning cleared them with a double to deep center off starter Austin Moore. Newport Harbor (5-9 in league) gave Seabold a four-run lead, the other run senior Tk McWhertor singled in Vetrovec during the second.

Seabold looked sharp through five innings, shutting out Marina (7-18, 2-12 in league). In the final two innings, the Vikings scored three runs, two on back-to-back ground-rule doubles in the sixth, and once because of back-to-back errors to open the seventh.

In the seventh, Seabold induced groundballs to the first two hitters. Each went to third baseman Jake Norton, who bobbled the first one, and then threw the following one in the dirt at second base, trying to turn a double play.

With no one out, the Vikings moved the runners into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Seabold had reached 100 pitches. At this point, with the top of the order up, the Cal State Fullerton-bound senior wasn't trying to mow down batters.

"I was just trying to get it in play, so my guys could take care of it," Seabold said.

Seabold induced another grounder to Norton. The senior handled the high-chopper and fired the ball to first, taking Vetrovec off the bag, but Vetrovec swiped at Moore's head and tagged the back of his helmet. The base umpire called Moore safe, and Chalmers wanted another opinion. He asked the base umpire if he would check with the home plate umpire, whose job is to look down the baseline, giving him a better look.

"It's a request, and usually they're good about it, if you're cordial to them," Chalmers said with a smile.

Sure enough, the man behind the plate had the right call, and Moore was out. Marina Coach Robert Marshall came out to argue the change in calls, knowing his team stood a better chance of tying the game with a runner on third and one out, instead of with two down.

The Vikings stranded the runner on third, as Seabold got another grounder to record his fourth complete game of the season. This groundball went to shortstop Christian Watson, who made Vetrovec work a little at first base. Vetrovec dug out the throw for the final out, and the team celebrated a much-needed win.

The Sailors can sweep the three-game series against Marina, a first for them during their eight years back in the Sunset League.

"I'm glad the umpires got [the call] right, because you never know what can happen," said Vetrovec, who went two for three and was OK with having a little pie in his hair afterward.

Seabold, who improved to 4-6 after striking out five and allowing five hits, wasn't so thrilled. Liam Ogburn shoved a pie right into Seabold's face, and soon Seabold chased Ogburn toward right field.

"Hey! Hey! Hey! Don't get hurt right now!" Chalmers yelled at the two. "I'm afraid Ogburn is in trouble."

Sunset League

Newport Harbor 4, Marina 3


Marina 000 002 1 – 3 5 2

Newport 040 000 x – 4, 8, 3

Moore, Ryan (3), Harmon (5) and Sinanian; Seabold and McWhertor. W – Seabold, 4-6. L – Moore. 2B – Marshall (M), McCollum (M), Vetrovec (NH), Korkmaz (NH).

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