The Sunset League baseball race will be decided this week.
Logan Pouelsen's grand slam in the bottom of third inning allowed Huntington Beach to distance itself from visiting Edison and propelled the Oilers to a key, 6-0 victory on Friday.
Huntington, ranked fifth in CIF Southern Section Division 1, stayed in title contention and within striking distance of league-leading Fountain Valley with the win. The Oilers trail third-ranked Fountain Valley by a single game in the standings with two games left to play next week.
The Barons (12-1 league) maintained their hold on first place Friday by disposing of Marina, 8-1.
While keeping its championship hopes alive, Huntington ended such thoughts for Edison by sweeping the Chargers this week. The Oilers rallied from a 3-1 deficit by scoring three runs in the top of the seventh Wednesday at Edison to pull out a 4-3 victory.
Edison slipped to 8-5 in league, still good for third place.
"I knew going into this thing (league), that it would be a great race, and it is," Huntington Coach Benji Medure said after his club raised its league record to 11-2 and overall mark to 19-4.
Through 2 1/2 innings it was anybody's ballgame even though Huntington had taken a 1-0 lead after an inning. Daniel Amaral began a one-out rally in the bottom of the third for the Oilers by drawing a walk off Edison starter Kaz Akamatsu. Clean-up hitter Tyler Murray singled through the left-side of the infield and with two out, Clint Jack drew a walk to load the bases.
That brought Pouelsen to the plate. The left-handed power hitter, who had hit a dribbler in front of the plate for a groundout in this initial at-bat of the game in the second inning, made the most of his second trip to the plate. The sophomore got ahold of a fastball and sent a sharp line drive to right field that just cleared the fence and ricocheted off the bottom of the scoreboard.
His grand slam, the first of his career, turned a one-run game into a comfortable lead for Huntington.
"It felt great," said Pouelsen who hit his third home run of the season. "I connected on that pitch but then it kind of started to lose some steam and I was just hoping it'd get out of here."
Pouelsen's big connection certainly turned the tide.
"The whole dugout erupted on Logan's hit," Medure said. "It changed the game dramatically.
"With a five-run lead, and Noah [Davis] on the mound, we felt pretty good about our chances."
Noah Davis retired the side in four of the six innings he pitched. The junior right-hander scattered three hits, two of which never made it out of the infield.
He allowed a two-out single in the top of the third to Wyatt Adams, and consecutive hits with two out three innings later. Left-handed hitter Nick Mailman got on base with a bunt single in the top of the sixth, then Brian Schales hit a grounder toward the middle of the infield and just did beat out the throw to first base.
"Noah was awesome," Medure said. "He located his fastball today, and that was something our bullpen had worked on this week. He really didn't give Edison much."
Davis, who improved to 9-1, was backed by an error-free defense. Senior Dillon Millar made two, stellar defensive plays in center field to start both the top of the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth, he nabbed a solid fly by Schales by charging forward to make a sliding catch on the run. In the fifth, he raced in to make the catch when Michael Mahony sent a shallow fly ball to center.
Senior Clay Morris pitched the seventh for Huntington. He gave up a two-out double to Dylan Sneed who sent a fly ball deep to left field that went off the high netting and came back into the field of play. Morris ended the game on a strikeout, his third of the inning.
An infield error by Edison (17-8 overall) in the bottom of the first led to Huntington's first run. Jarrett Anton doubled to right field and Amaral drew a walk with one out, bringing Murray to the plate. His grounder to shortstop was briefly bobbled by Schales who regrouped and threw the first. The throw was low, Murray was safe, and Anton came around from second to score.
Huntington scored its final run in the bottom of the sixth. With two out, sophomore Chad Minato lined a single into right field off Nate Madden, the third of three Edison pitchers for the game. Senior Roger Lemburg drew a walk and Murray ripped a 2-2 pitch to the fence in left field. His double drove in Minato to make it 6-0 and the Oilers were well on their way to sweeping (3-0) the league series with the Chargers.
"That's the team we were at the beginning of the season," Medure said of the effort by his team Friday. "We were aggressive swinging at our pitches, and aggressive on the base paths.
"This was a must-win situation for us. We're at that point of the season where it's survive and advance. That's our goal, to survive and advance."
The Sunset League season comes to a close next week. Huntington completes its three-game series with Los Alamitos and hosts the Griffins at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday. The teams meet again at 3:15 p.m. Thursday at Los Alamitos.
Defending league champion Fountain Valley (18-6 overall) takes on rival Edison twice. The Barons play host to the Chargers at 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, and play at 3:15 p.m. Thursday at Edison.
Two games to go, and a one game differential in the title chase.
"It's funny, but when I looked at our schedule at the beginning of the year, I always looked at our final series with Los Al," Medure said. "I knew that series would matter, and it does. We need to win out, to have a shot at the title."
Huntington Beach 6, Edison 0
Fountain Valley 8, Marina 1
Ocean View 2, Westminster 1
Fountain Valley 9, Marina 6
Huntington 4, Edison 3
Ocean View 6, Westminster 1