CdM baseball blanks Newport Harbor behind Stevie Jones’ gem

Starting pitcher Stevie Jones (14) of Corona del Mar throws during Battle of the Bay and Surf League game.
Starting pitcher Stevie Jones (14) of Corona del Mar throws during the Battle of the Bay game against rival Newport Harbor on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

There’s so much detail that drives Corona del Mar’s bid for a third Wave League baseball title in as many tries, but the Sea Kings’ best chance for success, head coach Kevin McCaffrey noted, is quite simple.

“As Stevie Jones goes, as Dillan Lane goes,” he said, “is how we go.”

Jones tossed another gem Wednesday afternoon and Lane drove in three runs, including the first two in a four-run first inning, as CdM made quick work of Newport Harbor in the third of four Battle of the Bay encounters this season, romping to a 5-0 triumph to ensure at least a split in the series.

CdM improved to 12-8 overall, and 3-2 in league. Newport Harbor is 8-12, 2-3 in league.

Jones (7-1), a sophomore left-hander, was mostly magnificent in tossing his third shutout of the season, relying on a devastating changeup to strike out 12 while walking none, spreading four hits, and allowing just one runner, after an error, past first base. He threw 77 strikes on 104 pitches and dropped his earned-run average over 60⅔ innings to 0.97.

CdM Standouts Dillan Lane (2) and Stevie Jones (14) meet at home plate after scoring two runs.
CdM standouts Dillan Lane (2) and Stevie Jones (14) meet at home plate after scoring two runs during the Battle of the Bay against rival Newport Harbor on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“He’s our guy,” McCaffrey said. “He’s done that all year. It’s pretty special. ... He gets right after people. He was throwing all [three] of his pitches for strikes and spotting them. It was another really special performance.”

Jones conceded a leadoff single to the Sailors’ Jack Pinkert, then retired 21 of the next 24 batters he faced before Wyatt Gahm’s two-out single in the top of the seventh inning. Only Gahm got to second base, advancing on Grant Horsley’s two-out single in the fifth after reaching on that error. Ryan Williams had the Sailors’ other hit, an infield single in the fourth.

“Boy, that was an impressive performance,” said Newport Harbor head coach Josh Lee, whose team was coming off a 2-0 home win, on Lucas Perez’s two-hitter, in Tuesday’s meeting. “As somebody who’s a pitch-caller, it’s got to be fun [for McCaffrey] when a kid’s doing that, right?

“I mean, fastball in, fastball out, fastball up, changeup, cutter, curveball. Wherever he wanted to. ... He’s only a sophomore. That kid’s going to be a problem in this league for awhile, and we’re going to have to figure out how to solve it over the next couple years.”

Newport Harbor shortstop Grant Horsley throws to first for an out during the Battle of the Bay baseball game on Wednesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Jones, who also earned the win at home in last week’s 12-2 romp in the first Battle of the Bay encounter, also reached base three times and scored the fourth run as the Sea Kings’ early burst provided a nice foundation to work from.

“[That lead] takes a lot of pressure off of me,” he said, “gives me a lot of room to work with, allows me to make a couple of mistakes, let the defense relax a little bit. Just kind of sets the tone for a good game.”

There weren’t many mistakes, and he got stingier as things proceeded, striking out nine from the third through sixth innings. He retired the side on called third strikes in the sixth.

“Stevie’s been balling all season,” said Lane, Corona del Mar’s senior catcher. “We’re always confident with him on the mound, and I think it helps our whole team, even offensively, when we know he’s pitching and he’s dealing.”

Carter Danz (44) of Corona del Mar eyes a quick throw on a pick-off attempt at first base during Wednesday's game.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The victory lifts the Sea Kings, Wave champions in 2021 and 2022 before last year’s brief stint in the superior Surf League, above the fray — along with Laguna Beach, a 4-1 winner at Marina — after all four teams went into Wednesday’s games with 2-2 league marks. They’ll visit Newport Harbor for Friday’s final faceoff, followed the next two weeks by three-game series against Laguna Beach and Marina.

Given Jones’ mastery, the Sea Kings put the game away quickly, sending nine batters to the plate against sophomore right-hander Gavin Guy in the first inning. The first four batters — Brady Gadol, Carter Danz, Lane and Jones — reached on singles, with Lane driving in the first two runs and No. 8 hitter Nick Salmon the latter pair.

CdM scored the fifth against two relievers in the fourth inning, with Lane’s one-out single bringing home William Cheichi, and left the bases loaded.

Guy, who surrendered five hits and four earned runs while getting just four batters out in last week’s rivalry loss, was throwing on just three days rest and with a 35-pitch ceiling.

Brady Gadol (10) of Corona del Mar slides safely into second base during Wednesday's game.
Brady Gadol (10) of Corona del Mar slides safely into second base as Newport Harbor shortstop Grand Horsley gets the throw during Wednesday’s game.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“Just to get some work in,” Lee said. “I think maybe an element of that kind of created some looser approaches, and they made us pay. You’ve got to be able to execute two or three different pitches for strikes, and we didn’t do that in the first, but we settled down and did a pretty good job after that.”

Freshman right-hander Keaton Anderson, making his varsity debut, was particularly impressive, throwing seven of his last eight pitches for strikes in the bottom of the sixth to retire the Sea Kings in order.

“He’s a starter on our JV team, and he’s got [a 1.59 ERA] down there,” Lee said. “So this felt like a good opportunity, especially with the 5-0 game, to get his feet wet in a Battle of the Bay game and feel what that’s like, especially on the road ... He did a really good job and just turned 15. He’s going to be big, tall and pretty damn good.”