Lakewood High School pitcher Mike McNary did his part, throwing yet another incredible game.
And although it took awhile, his teammates finally did their part, pushing across a run in the bottom of the ninth to give Lakewood the Southern Section 4-A baseball title with a 1-0 win over Anaheim Esperanza Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
McNary, who is only 5 feet 8 inches, stood tall against the defending champion Aztecs, who brought a .347 team batting average into the game. McNary allowed only 2 hits, permitting just one runner to make it past first base, and he had 13 strikeouts.
"I felt strong the whole time," McNary said. "(But) I thought we were gonna blow it."
"I was intimidated because of their reputation as mashers, but I came out and went at them." And after 123 pitches and 9 innings, he was finally a winner. McNary (12-3) won all five of Lakewood's playoff games, pitching complete games in four of them.
The winning rally started with one out in the ninth when Esperanza pitcher Doug Saunders walked Dewey Kaeka on four pitches. Kaeka was hitting .067.
Mike Lombardi bunted him to second and beat it out for a hit. Paul Graves followed with a single to left to load the bases.
Saunders struck out Ross Schanberg on a 3-and-2 pitch for the second out. But the next batter, Loren Lujan, hit a slow roller to third baseman Brent Bish. Bish charged the ball, bobbled it, then dropped it and Lakewood had the title.
In the top of the inning, Esperanza had its best chance to score against a tiring McNary. Bart Goldman singled and took second on a groundout, bringing up Tom Redington, who was intentionally walked.
But Saunders, the hero in the Esperanza's playoff wins over Anaheim Servite and Arcadia, was called out on strikes. Jason Moler followed with a drive down the right-field line, but Lakewood had him played perfectly and Schanberg made the catch.
The pitchers dominated from the outset, although Lakewood had more success against Roger Weems than Esperanza had against McNary.
Lakewood had runners at first and third in the first inning, but Weems struck out John Baldwin to end the inning.
In the fourth, Lakewood had runners at first and second with one out, but Weems struck out Fred Pena and picked pinch-runner David Stark off second base to end the threat.
Esperanza's only hit off McNary through the first six innings was a single by Saunders, who then stole second with no outs. But the Aztecs stranded him as McNary struck out the side.
Weems, who had pitched to only two batters in the playoffs because of an injury, lasted until the sixth.