Hoover High baseball's bounce-back season concludes in wild-card defeat

A revival that perhaps was a little ahead of schedule took a detour Tuesday afternoon.

After qualifying for its first postseason appearance in three years, the Hoover High baseball team exited quickly after a 13-1 defeat at Rancho Cucamonga in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs on Tuesday afternoon.

With the defeat, the Tornadoes concluded the 2014 campaign with a 12-13 overall record after finishing tied for fifth in the Pacific League.

Baseline League runner-up Rancho Cucamonga (15-12) punched its ticket to the first round with the win and will face Channel League champion Buena (19-6) on Thursday.

“It was a tough one,” Tornadoes second-year skipper Brian Esquival said. “We walked nine batters today and we committed four errors. Put all that together and you get that score. We just weren’t ready from the onset.”

Hoover allowed the final 13 runs of the contest after taking a 1-0 lead in the third inning.

Junior Pierce Velazquez singled with one out, advanced to second on a sacrifice from Luis Zamora and then scored when a deeper chopper to short from teammate Fidel Hernandez was thrown away.

Unfortunately for Hoover, the error was immediately given back by the Tornadoes in the next half inning as a fly ball to the outfield was dropped to lead off the inning.

The gaffe led to a snowball, as the Cougars scored five runs in the inning and took control.

“We had a couple of errors and a couple of walks in the inning and, before you know it, it’s 5-1,” Esquival said. “I have to take responsibility for this game.

“We had our opportunities and we weren’t just ready for the game.”

Hoover had one last hoorah in the fifth when the Tornadoes loaded the bases with one out, which forced Rancho Cucamonga skipper RJ Farrell to bring in his ace, senior right-hander Michael Lopez, out of the pen.

The highly-touted prospect fanned consecutive batters to escape the jam in the fifth with Hoover trailing, 5-1.

Despite Tuesday’s setback, Esquival said the program was progressing.

“Maybe we got here a year earlier than I thought we would,” Esquival said. “But in all honesty, we still haven’t done anything. We qualified to the playoffs and lost our first game, so we still have a long way to go.”

Even so, Esquival expects a different attitude next season.

“The expectations have been changed here at Hoover,” Esquival said. “I’m proud of that. Now, it’s time to take the next step. We got to the playoffs this year and a young core got a taste of the postseason. Now the goal is to get a win.”

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