The outfield sprinklers went on automatically at 5:30 p.m at Huntington Beach High, which led baseball coach Benji Medure to sprint to the cell tower beyond the fence in left-center field to turn them off.
Under most circumstances, the Oilers’ field would have been empty by then. But Huntington Beach was trying to finish its marathon Newport Elks Tournament Frank Lerner Division semifinal game against Studio City Harvard-Westlake, which was approaching four hours in length.
Five minutes later, Huntington Beach relief pitcher Michael Coburn struck out Harvard-Westlake’s Tyler Ganus. Huntington Beach had earned a 14-6 six-inning victory over the Wolverines, propelling the Oilers into the Frank Lerner Division title game.
Senior center fielder Jake Vogel was three for four with a three-run home run for Huntington Beach (5-0), ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll. The Oilers will play No. 4 JSerra (6-0) for the division title at Orange County Great Park in Irvine on Friday at 6 p.m. JSerra got past Palm Desert 3-2 in another semifinal game Wednesday.
The Oilers got a measure of revenge against No. 5 Harvard-Westlake (2-1-1), which ended the Oilers’ season last year with a 6-2 win in the semifinals of the Division 1 playoffs.
“We’re not going to sit here and deny that we wanted revenge on them,” Medure said. “It was something we were talking about in the dugout throughout the game. I’m pretty close with [Harvard-Westlake coach Jared Halpert] and we feel like we’re magnets to each other. We always end up playing each other. Our boys were super-excited that we were playing this game.”
Huntington Beach took a 7-0 lead after two innings. Joe Yost, Vogel and Jag Burden led off the game with three straight hits, and Burden’s double scored two. Burden later came home on a double by Shane Stafford, who finished three for four with a pair of RBIs.
Mark Muranaka, Brady Malpass, Vogel and Burden each scored in the second inning, with the big hit being Blake Penso’s two-run single.
“In the dugout, we’re really good at calming each other down, getting each other pumped up to get focused on every single at-bat,” Stafford said. “I feel like we’re really good at grinding right now.”
Harvard-Westlake rallied with five runs in the third inning, including a grand slam by cleanup hitter Sam Biller that was followed by a solo shot from Jordan Kang. After the Wolverines scored a run in the top of the fourth, Huntington Beach’s lead was trimmed to 7-6. But the Oilers sent 10 to the plate and scored seven runs in the bottom of the frame.
“We called everybody together,” Medure said. “We were just like, ‘Look, we’re still winning, and it’s our park. We’re going to be the last ones to hit. Just go up and put a crooked number up right now, and the momentum will be ours.’ I was proud of the way our guys answered right there.”
Stafford had a run-scoring infield single, and Ralph Velazquez added an RBI groundout. Stafford scored on a wild pitch, and Muranaka scored on a balk.
After Ryan Neves and Yost each walked, Vogel launched a two-out, three-run home run to right-center off Wolverines reliever Alex Shane. It was the first homer of the season for Vogel, a UCLA commit.
“I was looking for a fastball up,” Vogel said. “He threw me two curveballs, and I didn’t want it. Then he threw me a fastball, I saw it and I hit it.”
Sophomore right-handed pitcher Jack Smith got the win in relief for the Oilers, allowing one unearned run in 1 1/3 innings of work.
Huntington Beach now will play three games against JSerra in a five-day stretch. In addition to Friday’s game, the teams have a nonleague doubleheader scheduled at JSerra on Tuesday.
“We’re going to get to know JSerra very well in the next couple of days,” Medure said.
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