SHERMAN OAKS — A little more than a week ago, Sage Hill School baseball coach Dominic Campeau found out the dates of the school's senior rafting trip. The getaway takes place every year around this time.
Four key seniors play for the Lightning, causing Campeau to worry. The three-day trip coincided with a crucial time of the baseball season, the start of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs.
"Guys, make your decision," Campeau said he texted his four seniors. "Think about what's right."
Each one responded with the same message: "We're playing." Those four seniors — Harrison Rhee, Adam Ellingson, Brett Dunlavey and Colby Bock — stayed with the team.
They opted to be part of a better trip, one resulting in Sage Hill's first win in the first round in four years. All four contributed to Sage Hill's 4-2 win at Sherman Oaks Buckley on Thursday.
Rhee singled in the first run in the first inning, and later on, he made a couple of nice plays at third base. Ellingson used his legs to swipe two bases and beat out a throw for an infield single. Dunlavey reached base once. Bock, a second baseman, took care of a grounder for the second out in the seventh inning, helping Brett Super throw his first complete game.
Super (7-2) turned in a super performance for a freshman. The right-hander used 89 pitches, allowing one earned run, three hits, while striking out three and walking one.
"That was big," Super said, not of his best outing of the year, but of Rhee, Ellingson, Dunlavey and Bock deciding to remain with the Lightning.
Having the seniors showed Campeau, in his first season at the helm, that his team is committed. Sage Hill (15-6) has proved it all season, even before the start of it with the passing of Kellen Ochi's father, Kaz, in September.
When Kaz succumbed to prostate cancer, Campeau asked Ochi if he needed time off. Ochi said, "No, no. I don't want to change my routine. I need to get back right into it."
Ochi is determined to make this season a memorable one. The patch on the right sleeve of his jersey with his father's initials is why.
"He was a huge part of this team," Ochi said of his father, who could always be seen at games taking photos of the entire team before he passed away. "He would've loved to be here. He would be out here taking photos right now. I know in the sky up there he's taking photos of all of us and he's rooting us on.
"Every time I go up there [to bat] I'm thinking to myself, 'This one's for him. This whole season's for him. We just got to get a win.'"
Ochi delivered at the plate, on the bases, and on defense for the Lightning.
In the sixth inning, Ochi, the shortstop, raced out toward left field as the cut-off man for Jack Pelc. Ben Shahar hit a shot, making Pelc chase after it.
Pelc picked it up and hit Ochi, who then fired to Rhee at third base to get Shahar trying to stretch a double into a triple. One run is all that Buckley managed to produce in the sixth.
Ochi is the one who sets the table for the Lightning. In a whacky top of the fourth inning, it was Ochi breaking a 1-1 tie with a two-out single.
Ochi, who had two stolen bases, almost never batted in the fourth. The three umpires had a tough time getting the calls right most of the game, and Campeau intervened when the trio made a mistake.
With runners on first and second and one out, right fielder Eben Berg trapped Pelc's fly ball. Confusion ensued for the baserunners. Two wound up at second base, where they were tagged out for an apparent inning-ending double play. Campeau, a former minor league catcher, wasn't having it.
"Look, are you sure about this?" Campeau asked one umpire. "He then looked at me and said, 'Well, what did you see?' He was saying that they were both on the same base, and he also said that it was not a force play, that they were both tagged. I said, 'It is a force play [because we had runners on first and second].' He then looked at me, closed his eyes, and he's like, 'That's right. Two outs. Let's get back on the field.'"
Buckley (12-9) sent its team back onto the field, its starter German Rojas to the mound to face Ochi. He had plunked Ochi in the butt in the first inning, on the first offering from the sidearm pitcher.
Three innings later, Ochi returned the favor. The junior tagged Rojas, pulling a fastball past a diving third baseman to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
Sage Hill added two runs in the fifth, after Parker Reposa singled and Bock's younger brother, Conner, doubled. Two errors brought them home, and home is where Sage Hill is playing No. 3-seeded Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (25-5) in the second round on Tuesday.
"Day one I told [my players] that if you were playing here it's because you're committed," Campeau said. "I know it's tough for these [seniors]. I know some of them are not going to play college baseball and they want to be with their friends. But I told them [what they did by remaining with the team is] what leadership is.
"The school respects what we want to do. I told them … when I got the job [that] I don't want this to be a rec ball program. I want this to be taken seriously."
CIF Southern Section Division 6
Sage Hill 4, Buckley 2
SCORE BY INNINGS
Sage 100 120 0 – 4 7 4
Buckley 010 001 0 – 2 3 4
Super and Bush; Rojas, Esmalian (6) and Shahar. W – Super. L – Rojas. 2B – Bush (SH), Con. Bock (SH), Shahar (B).