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Corona tops Huntington Beach baseball in Division 1 semifinals

Huntington Beach second baseman CJ Weinstein, shown earlier in the Division 1 playoffs.
Huntington Beach second baseman CJ Weinstein, shown against Villa Park earlier in the Division 1 playoffs, hit a solo home run at Corona on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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Corona High junior Seth Hernandez is known as the top two-way baseball player in the class of 2025.

Huntington Beach hit decently against Hernandez on Tuesday in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.

But then he turned to his bat to do damage.

Hernandez launched a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Panthers beat the Oilers, 3-1, to book their spot in the Division 1 title game.

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Top-seeded Corona (29-3) will play No. 2-seeded Studio City Harvard-Westlake for the championship on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore.

After losing in the Division 1 semifinals for the second time in three years, Huntington Beach will try to regroup for next week’s CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs. Coach Benji Medure and his team know what happened the last time this scenario occurred, as Huntington Beach claimed the regional title in 2022.

“We’ve got a second chance,” Medure said. “We know it’s not the CIF championship game, but we don’t care. We get to play together and play for something, and that means something to us, so we’ll do it.”

Huntington Beach (23-9) lost to National High School Invitational tournament champion Corona for the third time this season, by a total of five runs. Oilers junior right-hander Tyler Bellerose was certainly up to the challenge Tuesday, allowing just one earned run in his five innings of work.

Corona still struck first in the bottom of the fourth inning on a two-out rally. Hernandez singled to right, and took third on another single by Josh Springer. Hernandez then scored on a wild pitch, the third straight pitch in the dirt by Bellerose, with junior catcher Trent Grindlinger blocking the first two.

Tyler Bellerose (14) of Huntington Beach, shown against Villa Park earlier this season.
Tyler Bellerose (14) of Huntington Beach, shown against Villa Park earlier this season, pitched five strong innings on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“We were just trying to miss down, you know, but it was just too down,” Medure said. “It caught the front of the plate and it shot up over the top of our catcher. Just one of those things.”

Huntington Beach tied the score in the sixth, on a towering solo home run to right by sophomore CJ Weinstein on a 2-0 pitch. It was the third homer of the year for Weinstein. He was two for three to account for half of the visitors’ hits — Ethan Porter hit a leadoff double in the first and Travis Curry singled in the fifth.

“When you fall behind, it’s tough to get it back, especially good hitters like CJ,” said Hernandez, who allowed the one earned run in six innings and is now 9-0 this season with a 0.50 ERA. “He’s a great hitter. He’s gotten me every time we’ve played. Falling behind hurt me there, but I just adjusted after that, got it back.”

Medure brought in freshman phenom right-hander Jared Grindlinger in the bottom of the inning. With one out, Brady Ebel reached on a high pop-up that landed in fair territory just in front of home plate.

“You teach your pitcher not to catch fly balls or pop-ups,” Medure said. “But in that case, that’s the time to catch it, right? He’s an outfielder — he’s a good athlete — but his brother called him off and the ball dropped. Then it’s a two-run home run. It’s a tricky play, and it happens right at the worst time for us.”

Indeed, Hernandez followed with a homer to left — his eighth of the season — on a 2-1 changeup over the middle.

Billy Carlson pitched a 1-2-3 scoreless seventh inning to earn the save for Corona, which has advanced to its first CIF title game since 2017.

Huntington Beach was vying for its third CIF Southern Section title game appearance, the first since the program’s lone championship in 2015.

“It’s tough, especially when you play a team so much and see them more and more,” Hernandez said of his team’s close games with the Oilers this year. “I don’t think it gets easier, I think it gets harder. They’re a great team, great organization. I know a lot of the guys over there, and they’re all dogs, so it felt good to get the win for sure.”

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