Edison baseball wins another close game to clinch Wave League title

Edison starting pitcher Zack Marker, center with smile, is mobbed by teammates after pitching a shutout during a Wave League baseball game against Newport Harbor on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Edison’s prowess in close games has been a defining aspect in its march to its first league title in baseball in a dozen years, so there was a familiarity to its clinching triumph. How it played out, not so much.

The Chargers captured the outright Wave League championship Friday afternoon in a gem of a pitchers’ duel, pulling out a 4-0 victory at Newport Harbor as a couple of walks, a couple of bunts, a couple of errors and a run-scoring single added up to four seventh-inning runs, none of them earned.

It was the wildest win yet for Edison (14-9, 7-0 in the Wave League), which completed a four-day, three-game sweep of Newport Harbor (9-14, 2-4), the other two meetings — 8-6 and 3-2 victories — ending on tighter terms. That’s 19 games this year decided by four or fewer runs, 11 of them one-run games; it’s comfortable territory for the Chargers.

Edison starting pitcher Zack Marker throws in the seventh inning against Newport Harbor on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

They had managed just one hit and four base runners against Newport Harbor right-hander Dominic Viglione before the seventh, but some well-executed small ball and a little good fortune rewarded senior right-hander Zack Marker’s expert performance in Edison’s third shutout of the season.

“Something we’ve talked about all year is putting pressure on defenses,” said Edison coach Nick Cappuccilli, whose team had clinched a share of the Wave League title in Wednesday’s low-scoring affair. “Harbor’s a good team — they’ve got the whole package — and putting some pressure on them was something we had to do. [Viglione] did a great job of keeping us off-balance, so it just came down to making the plays. He did a great job of keeping us off the bases, but, thankfully, we put some pressure on him.”

Viglione had retired 12 in a row after letting four of five batters reach base at the end of the second and start of the third innings, but he was in trouble right away, walking Caiden Kirk on five pitches. Gavin Johnson’s perfect bunt single between the mound and first base put two on, and Trent Johnson, Gavin’s big brother, followed with a sacrifice-bunt straight to the mound.

Newport Harbor's Ryan Williams slides into third base under the tag of Edison's Noah Stockman on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Viglione picked it up, wheeled around and threw toward third base, well ahead of Kirk, but the ball sailed up the right-field line, Kirk and Gavin Johnson trotted home, and Trent Johnson took second. When Brady Palmerin walked, Viglione departed for left-hander Jake Staffieri, who promptly balked runners to second and third before throwing a pitch.

Staffieri quickly struck out Elijah Boersma and would have gotten the second out if second baseman Adair Bisoso hadn’t lost Kevin Andrus’ high pop-up in the sun, enabling Trent Johnson to come home. Brandon Winokur followed with a single to left for the fourth run, and that was that.

“It’s just baseball,” said Winokur, the Chargers’ UCLA-bound shortstop, who twice turned second-inning grounders into outs at third base to keep Newport Harbor off the scoreboard. “Any day anything can happen.”

Newport Harbor outfielder Ryan Williams runs down a deep fly ball for an out against Edison on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It’s played out that way this season for Edison, which is headed to the CIF Southern Section playoffs, in Division 3, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic’s arrival. The program had been part of the top-tier Surf League since the Sunset League had been split into two four-team competitions before the 2019 season but were dropped into the Wave League after going 1-8 in league games last year, Cappuccilli’s first. This year’s team, led by a strong and considerable senior class, embraced a culture built on discipline and accountability and has prospered from it.

“This team bonded together these last eight months, practicing and working hard, putting a lot of work in behind the scenes,” Winokur said. “All of these guys decided to buy into one idea: Make the playoffs, be league champs. ... Coach Capp has been huge for us. The first year, we were all kind of getting to know each other, and now we’re settled. We’re ready to go. We want to win a [CIF] championship.”

Cappuccilli knows it’s possible. Anything is.

Edison's Brady Palmerin rounds third as he scores a run at Newport Harbor on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We always believed [we could succeed] if [the players] could believe in it,” he said. “We thought we could if they thought they could, and around January we saw some kind of shift. We became a little closer, our chemistry got a little bit better, and the guys just seemed to be more relaxed and just had more fun. And once that started clicking, our execution got better and the expectations that we had of each other got higher.”

It’s made the Chargers tough to beat when it matters. They’re 7-4 in those one-run games, and two of the losses — one of them to nationally ranked Huntington Beach — were in extra innings. Pitching has been pivotal, with Marker and Tyler Eastham (four-hitter on Wednesday) the aces.

Marker was exceptional in Friday’s five-hitter, striking out 11, throwing 58 strikes on 86 pitches, and working out of three jams — with five runners in scoring position — in the first four innings. He got stronger as the game proceeded, allowing just one base runner in his final 3⅔ innings.

Edison starting pitcher Zack Marker looks to his bench in celebration after securing a shutout against Newport Harbor.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“There was a huge strike zone,” Newport Harbor head coach Josh Lee said, “and when he lives at the means like that and makes the ball move like that, recognizes the strike zone and takes advantage of it, it’s going to be tough.”

Marker surrendered lead-off doubles in the first (to Adam Martin) and second (to Ryan Williams) innings, and singles in the second and fourth by Bisoso — the latter accompanied by an error. Marker didn’t flinch.

“There were some issues in the early innings, but I don’t get stressed easily,” Marker said. “Staying composed is the biggest part of my game, and I think I did a good job of that today. Once I get my groove, I’m in my groove, and I think I hit it today, luckily, for the clinch.”

Newport Harbor, which graduated most of the key figures from the team that last year reached the Division 3 semifinals and won the CIF Southern California Division III Regional title, sits in third, a game and a half behind Laguna Beach (10-10-1, 4-3), a 2-1 winner at Marina on Friday. The Sailors hold the tiebreaker and have three games next week with Marina (9-15, 0-6); Laguna Beach finishes with two games against Edison.

Newport Harbor's Dominic Viglione slides safely into third base as Edison's Noah Stockman waits for the throw on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)