LAGUNA BEACH "” Forty-six years turned into 47 on Tuesday for the Laguna Beach High baseball team.
The Orange Coast League title was so close, yet so far away after Costa Mesa topped the Breakers, 9-2, to clinch the league title outright.
Laguna Beach hasn’t won a baseball league title since 1963, and that remains true, regardless of the result of Thursday’s game at Costa Mesa.
The Mustangs hadn’t won a league title since 1978 themselves, and what Laguna Beach Coach Jeff Sears saw was a hungrier group from Costa Mesa.
“They competed and we didn’t," Sears said. “They came to play, they came to win a title, and we didn’t come to win a title."
Costa Mesa (19-6, 10-1) jumped out to an 8-2 lead after four innings. The big shot was a grand slam by senior Nick Pederson, who also earned the win on the mound.
Laguna Beach (14-12, 7-4) had kept it close early. Gabe Stansbury’s RBI double scored fellow senior Jake Sganga in the first, then senior Bret Barrett reached on a second-inning error and scored when Keaton Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice, cutting the Mustangs’ lead to 3-2 at the time.
After that, there wasn’t a ton of offense, although Stansbury went three for three with two doubles and a walk. Pederson kept the Breakers off-balance for much of the game, striking out eight.
“He competed," Sears said. “We made him look like Cy Young. You swing at pitches that bounce before the plate, that’s telling me that we’re not prepared, we’re not ready."
Barrett had a double for Laguna Beach, while Jones, Casey Miller, Steve Contursi and Andrew Paddon all added singles.
The Breakers will still finish second in league and await the CIF Southern Section Division IV pairings, to be released Monday at noon. It is Laguna Beach’s first playoff appearance in nine years.
Until the playoffs start, though, Sears said the Breakers have plenty to practice.
"[Not winning the league title] is disappointing as a coach," Sears said. “When you don’t show up, it’s a lot on the coach, then I have to look in the mirror. I have to look at what I’m doing. I’m going to find nine guys who want to compete. From this point on, I will find nine guys who want to compete day-in, day-out."
Stansbury, Sganga, Barrett, Paddon, Dillon Pierce, Nate Wilson and Chris Taylor were the Breakers’ seven seniors honored Tuesday during pregame festivities.