Oaks Christian rallies late, stuns Newport Harbor in CIF Division 3 semifinals
The sting of a late-inning comeback by the visitors did not quickly wear off for the Newport Harbor baseball team.
Westlake Village Oaks Christian scored three runs in the sixth inning to steal a 3-2 victory on Tuesday in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 semifinals.
Having led from the first inning, the Sailors found it tough to come to grips with the fact that their bid to become the first team in program history to make a section championship game had been upended.
Newport Harbor coach Josh Lee looked at the season in totality, recognizing the Sailors had already gone further than any other team in school history in making the semifinals.
“I think in the moment, it hurts,” Lee said. “I told them that. The next 24 hours are going to hurt. We’re going to take the day off tomorrow, but one of the good parts about being an adult — we all miss our own high school experiences — but the good part is we get to perspective a little bit quicker than teenagers.
“I told them over the next week or so, the perspective will start to set in, and when it does, that’s going to be a good feeling because…they hold most of the records here now, as they should.”
Sam DiCarlo, the Sonoma State-bound starting pitcher for Newport Harbor (19-12), had confounded the Lions with his curveball through the first five innings, notching nine strikeouts without surrendering a run.
Back-to-back base hits by Elijah Clayton and Christopher Tampoya to open the sixth cut Newport Harbor’s lead to 2-1, prompting a pitching change, as Lee brought in his starting shortstop Joey Wright in relief.
A ground out by Finley Buckner advanced Tampoya into scoring position, and then Thomas Farmer sent a bullet over the head of center fielder Bryce Blaser to the wall, tying the score at 2-2.
Wright answered by striking out Patrick Chute, but he reached base following the dropped third strike. Royce Clayton’s infield single brought in Farmer as the go-ahead run.
“Off the bat, it felt great because I knew I was like, ‘That’s got to get down,’” Farmer said of his double. “My running probably didn’t look good because I was too excited. It felt really good.”
Wright, a UC Davis commit, stopped the bleeding from there, inducing a comebacker to the mound for a double play to end the sixth. He recorded two strikeouts in a perfect seventh.
In its two chances to get the equalizer, Newport Harbor got a one-out single from Troy Christensen in the sixth and a two-out walk from Blaser in the seventh. Neither made it past first base, as Jaden Onaca put the finishing touches on a four-hit complete-game victory. Onaca struck out seven and walked four.
“It felt great,” Onaca said of going the distance in a semifinal. “I’m glad I got to get the team to the next game, to the championship. I’m glad we get to keep going.”
Oaks Christian (20-11) will face La Quinta (25-6) in the Division 3 championship game on Saturday at Cal State Fullerton. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.
The Sailors likely lamented not getting more out of the opportunities they had offensively. Jackson Gilles’ first-inning double hugged the left-field line and pounded off the fence 326 feet away. It scored Blaser, but the relay of Farmer, the left fielder, to Buckner, the shortstop, to catcher Leonardo Baez was well executed to get the trailing runner Trent Liolios at home plate.
“It was really fun,” Gilles said of his team’s playoff run. “It was just nice. As soon as playoffs started, we all came together a lot as a team. We worked really well together, and just one bad inning. Overall, it was a good game. Just got unlucky one inning. That’s baseball.”
In the fourth, the Sailors had the first two batters reach base, but Christensen’s bunt attempt was caught in the air by Tampoya, the third baseman, and Newport Harbor was unable to manufacture a run.
Newport Harbor extended its lead to 2-0 in the fifth, when Jack Morris legged out a double to left and Liolios singled to right to drive him in with two outs.
“I think resiliency,” DiCarlo said when asked what was different about the Sailors this year. “We started the season really well, and in the middle, we had a patch where we were like 1-6, but we never gave up and we snuck our way into the playoffs. It didn’t go our way today, but it was a good season.”
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