Baseball: NHBA steps up, wins

This post has been corrected, as noted below.

WHITTIER — With no game on Friday, the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. All-Star team took the day off. Manager Mike Greer said he felt his 12-and-under Bronco team needed it.

The time away from baseball allowed the players to clear their minds after Newport Harbor's nine-run lead in the fifth inning didn't hold up in the opener at the Pony Southern California Super Region tournament on Thursday. Two days later, Newport Harbor returned to the field, and for the second time in as many games, it took the first lead.

The team stayed ahead this time. Newport Harbor staved off elimination with a 7-3 win against Toluca at York Field in Whittier on Saturday morning.

Thirty-five innings are how many more Newport Harbor wants to play in the tournament. The team has three days to get five games in. To keep its West Zone tournament hopes alive, Newport Harbor cannot lose again.

"There was no die in them," Greer said. "They just realized what's in front of them, and it's an opportunity. We kick it to [Sunday] and we'll come out and play hard in the [first game], and hopefully get to the afternoon [game] and wake up and it's Monday."

For Newport Harbor to remain in contention for one of the tournament's two berths to the West Zone tournament, it must win twice on Sunday. The first game is at 11:30 a.m. against the loser of Ventura Coast and North City. If Newport Harbor wins, it plays a second game at 2 p.m.

The scenario is the same for Newport Harbor come Monday, when it has to win two games. The road is a long one to advance to Tuesday's runner-up game.

Only one other Newport Harbor team has reached the West Zone tournament before, coming two years ago. Greer believes this current team has the makeup, the pitching, and the hitting to make a run.

Logan Pence gave Newport Harbor four quality innings. He picked up the win after allowing two runs, one earned, four hits, and striking out three, while walking three.

By the time Pence exited, Newport Harbor provided him with a 6-2 lead. The team scored once in the first inning, and then it put up five in the next inning.

The bottom of the lineup set the table for Newport Harbor in the bottom of the second inning. Luke Bashore drew a leadoff walk, and Pence recorded a bloop single, his first of two hits. Chase Greer singled to load the bases for Simon Copeman.

Copeman, a left-handed batter, went the other way. He doubled off the left-field fence to drive in two runs. Clay Liolios followed up with an opposite-field double, his bouncing toward the right-field fence to bring home two runs.

Liolios, who went two for four, eventually came around to score on a wild pitch, putting Newport Harbor up, 6-1. The lead held up, thanks to the right arm of Pence and catcher Braham Duncan.

Pence picked off a runner trying to go home in the third inning. When Pence ran into trouble in the fourth, walking the first batter, Duncan made sure to get him out. Duncan threw out the runner trying to steal second base, with Liolios, playing shortstop, applying the tag.

Duncan showed off his arm again after Pence gave up a ground-rule double. The runner took off for third, and Duncan fired a perfect throw to third baseman Trey Genova to get another runner. Pence got out of the inning with a strikeout.

Pence's day ended on the mound, and in came Jack Bibb to start the fifth. Greer said the left-hander has been battling a hip flexor injury. Bibb turned in two solid innings of middle relief, striking out two and giving up two hits and one run, coming in the fifth. Copeman, a center fielder, made a nice catch of a line drive in the fifth to strand a runner at third.

Newport Harbor added a run in the fifth, as  Bashore scored on a passed ball.   Bashore got on base on his double to right-center field, one of five doubles for Newport Harbor on the day. Kyle Binford had one double and Liolios finished with two.

Liolios also picked up the save. While the first hitter singled, Newport Harbor's defense turned a line drive into a double play. Binford caught the ball before tossing it to   Bashore at first base.

"We got a fortunate baseball break that we didn't get the other night," Greer said with a grin, before adding that his players have "forgotten about the debacle Thursday night.

"[We] just let them all go do what they wanted to do and relax [on Friday]. We've been pushing them hard for a couple of months now, and they've all put in the time. Now it's [time to] just let the process take over and the results will come."

Five straight wins are the results Newport Harbor is aiming for in three days. If Newport Harbor pulls them off, Greer will no doubt give his players Wednesday off.

[For the record, updated at 9:02 p.m. July 19: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed Luke Bashore's achievements in the game to Johnny Brigandi.]

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