Fifty years ago this week, the Costa Mesa High School baseball team participated in the school's first CIF playoff game.
The school opened for classes in the fall of 1958. The 1960-61 school year was the first for varsity sports on campus.
The Mustang baseball squad entered the CIF playoffs for the first time in the spring of '61. Comprised solely of sophomores and juniors, the team finished second in the CIF's A division.
The following season, in 1962, the senior-laden Mustang squad became the first Newport-Mesa team ever to win a varsity CIF title.
I was a junior at Mesa on Saturday, May 20, 1961, when the Mustang baseballers opened CIF play.
Costa Mesa was co-champion of the Orange League, and drew the Holtville High School Vikings in a first-round CIF game. Holtville was the Mountain-Desert League champion.
Holtville High is in a tiny town by the same name in the Imperial Valley, south of the Salton Sea. The game was staged at Municipal Park in Brawley, 10 miles north of Holtville.
As sports editor of the school newspaper, the Hitching Post, I traveled with the Mustangs to the game. I also covered it for the Costa Mesa Daily Globe-Herald and Pilot, which published Mondays through Saturdays. My story ran in the Monday, May 22, edition.
The Mustangs' team bus left the Mesa High parking lot at 7 a.m. Saturday. The drive to Brawley took nearly four hours, and the first pitch of the seven-inning contest was scheduled for 1 p.m.
The long bus ride was uneventful.
Coach George Selfridge's players seemed loose and not the least bit intimidated by the prospect of playing in the school's first CIF playoff game.
Though there were no seniors on the roster, the Costa Mesa team was experienced and confident. Most of the players had grown up in the excellent Harbor Area Boys Club baseball program, and had played ball together since elementary school.
In oppressive 110-degree heat, Holtville jumped out to a 2-0 first-inning lead, parlaying three singles and an infield out into a pair of runs.
Costa Mesa knotted the score in the top of the fourth, when Mike Patrick drove in Tom Gillman with a double, and Jim Curtis plated Patrick with a single.
Patrick, Costa Mesa's captain and second baseman, turned in a nifty unassisted double play in the bottom of the fourth to get the Mustangs out of a jam.
Holtville crashed a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth to take a 3-2 advantage.
The Mesans came to bat for the final time in the seventh.
Patrick singled, and Curtis reached base on an error that should have been a double play. Rick Jourden sacrificed the runners along, and Mike Botts stroked a double down the leftfield line to give the Mustangs a 4-3 advantage.
Reliever Steve Harper came in to close out the hosts in the bottom of the seventh. Mesa starter Don Kolasinski, who scattered eight hits in six innings, got the win.
The players were jubilant!
"If we'd have [gone] another inning, I think I would have passed out," Patrick said of the heat.
After the game, the Mesa players and coaches (and even the skinny sportswriter) went swimming in the Brawley High pool. The players regaled one another with cannonballs off the high dive.
We stopped for dinner in Banning, and arrived in Costa Mesa late Saturday evening. A host of students and parents awaited the bus in the parking lot.
On Sunday night, I went to the Globe-Herald on Bay and Thurin streets to file my story. The huge 32-inch article, under an eight-column banner headline, ran in Monday's paper.
The following Tuesday, the Mustangs beat favored Needles in the second round of the playoffs, 5-2. Three days later, on Friday, May 26, Costa Mesa lost a heartbreaking 6-5, 10-inning verdict to Villanova Prep of Ojai to finish second in the playoffs.
The following spring the Mustangs won the CIF crown.
Those '61 and '62 Mesa baseball teams rank as two of Newport-Mesa's finest!
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Tuesdays.