Cypress completed an impressive late title run Saturday with an 8-7 victory over Saddleback, winning the Orange Empire Conference baseball title outright.
It was the seventh consecutive conference victory for Cypress (34-10, 19-5), which beat Riverside for the title by a game. It was the Chargers' first championship since 1989.
But to win at home Saturday, Cypress had to rally from three- and four-run deficits.
The Chargers broke a 7-7 tie with a run in the eighth on Augie Ojeda's sacrifice fly. Mario Opipari started the eighth with a walk, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch before scoring on Ojeda's fly to right-center.
Saddleback's half of the ninth proved to be nerve-racking. Rich Kleckner started with a single, chasing Matt Hendren (9-2), who pitched eight-plus innings for the victory.
Andy Gonzales came on and got the first out, when Lorne Rosas sent a chopper behind the mound toward a charging Ojeda, whose throw was just in time to get Rosas. Mark Huffman flied out for the second out and Wade Jackson was walked intentionally. Ted Wilkes was hit on the helmet with a breaking pitch to load the bases.
But Gonzales caught Sam Voita looking at a breaking pitch to end the game.
"We wanted to win it outright," Cypress Coach Scott Pickler said. "The kids worked too hard to share it. We won it this year with pitching and defense. Billy Pinkham and Ronnie Hall did a great job with the pitchers and Ron Hauczinger really worked hard on the defense."
Cypress is expected to be one of the top-seeded teams when the Southern California playoffs pairings are announced Monday. The first round, involving 16 teams paired off in eight best-of-three series, starts Saturday.
"I think we should be one of the top two teams," Pickler said. "Given the conference we play in, and respect it has earned, we should be there."
Saddleback (23-14-1, 13-11) finished fourth and has a strong chance at getting a wild-card berth.
In other Orange Empire Conference games:
Riverside 2, Golden West 1--Dennis Konrady's two-out double scored Peter Jenkins and Tracy Edmondson in the first inning for host Riverside (31-9, 18-6).
Jeff Barker (12-2) pitched a complete game, giving up four hits for Riverside. He also struck out eight. Robert Prince drove in Tom Hill, who tripled, to score the only run for Golden West (15-22, 8-16).
Rancho Santiago 7, Fullerton 4--Toby Sanchez was five for five, including his 15th home run, and drove in two runs for host Rancho Santiago (32-11, 15-9), which finished third. Jason Minici added three hits, including his seventh homer and second in two games.
Brandon Hoalton (11-2) gave up one earned run, striking out six. It was his 23rd career victory, putting him one game shy of an Orange Empire Conference career record.
At the Opening Day Regatta in Seattle:
Orange Coast finishes second--The Pirates' junior varsity and freshman crew each placed behind host Washington.
The JV Pirates finished in 6:08, two seconds behind first-place Washington. Orange Coast's freshman finished in 6:29. Washington's A team finished in 6:19.
In men's tennis:
Saddleback doubles team loses--The team of Bill Cassas and Erik Berg was defeated a doubles team from Palos Verdes Marymount, 7-6, 6-3 in the semifinals of the Southern California Regional Tournament.