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Pacifica Christian Orange County baseball blanked by Azusa in first CIF title game

Pacifica Christian Orange County pitcher John Coopman throws to the plate in Saturday's  championship game in Lake Elsinore.
Pacifica Christian Orange County starting pitcher John Coopman delivers to the plate in Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Division 8 championship game at Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore.
(Courtesy of Brooklyn Motske )
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With a cast of predominantly freshmen and sophomores, it was quite an accomplishment for the Pacifica Christian Orange County High baseball team to make the CIF Southern Section Division 8 championship game.

Once the Tritons got there Saturday, they ran into a senior who was just too tough on the mound.

Josh Torres threw a complete game, two-hit shutout to lead No. 2-seeded Azusa to a 5-0 victory over top-seeded Pacifica Christian at Diamond Stadium in Lake Elsinore.

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Torres struck out 12 batters for the Aztecs in what Pacifica Christian coach Chris Gomez called a “buzz saw” performance. He improved to 9-1 this season.

“He’s been doing that all year,” Azusa coach Albert Sanchez said of Torres. “He’s thrown a couple of one hitters, but in this big of a game [against] a team like Pacifica, probably not. This was a lot more exciting.”

Pacifica Christian third baseman Scout Escobedo, left, and pitcher John Coopman discuss strategy during Saturday's game.
Pacifica Christian third baseman Scout Escobedo, left, and pitcher John Coopman discuss strategy during Saturday’s CIF Southern Section Division 8 championship game in Lake Elsinore.
(Courtesy of Brooklyn Motske)

Freshman Scout Escobedo, a hero in Tuesday’s walk-off CIF semifinal victory over San Bernardino, had both hits for the Tritons (22-7).

Azusa (18-5), which won its second CIF title in baseball with the other coming in 1983, put up four runs in the bottom of the first inning against Pacifica Christian sophomore starter John Coopman. Isaac Miranda had a run-scoring triple on a hard-hit ball to right that still likely could have been caught, Jacob Elliot had an RBI single and Oscar Rojas added a sacrifice fly.

The inning started when Torres, the leadoff hitter, reached on an infield error.

“I don’t think there were a ton of balls that were hit that hard,” Gomez said. “We didn’t play the greatest defense like we’re used to behind [Coopman], but he battled the whole time. He never hung his head, kept battling the whole time. I’m really proud of him, but we’ve seen it all year and expect nothing less from him.”

The four-run lead still was more than enough for Azusa and Torres, who pounded the strike zone and sometimes used an effective pause in his delivery. The Aztecs added their fifth run in the bottom of the fifth inning, when Zach Huizar was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on Elliot’s second run-scoring knock of the day.

“The pitcher was giving us fastballs and we were hitting fastballs,” Elliot said. “That’s been our approach at the plate all season, we can’t let that fastball go by us.”

Coopman, who settled in to retire eight batters in a row at one point, went five innings before Jon Stone pitched the sixth for the Tritons.

San Joaquin League co-champion Pacifica Christian, which was shut out for just the second time this season, tried to rally in the seventh. Escobedo laced a one-out single to center, before Coopman walked. But Torres induced a foul out along the first-base line before earning his 12th strikeout to end it.

Freshman leadoff hitter Blake Hayes (2), shown hitting a double against San Bernardino on Tuesday.
Freshman leadoff hitter Blake Hayes (2), shown hitting a double against San Bernardino on Tuesday, was a catalyst all season for the Pacifica Christian Orange County High baseball team.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I feel like I was able to hit that outside [corner],” Torres said. “It worked a lot, get them to try to shorten up on the fastball and then be able to just pound the zone with the off-speed, have them off-balance and not knowing what’s coming.”

The Tritons have still had a very successful season by any metric, advancing to their first CIF title game in just their third season as a varsity program. They started six freshmen Saturday — Escobedo, shortstop Blake Hayes, center fielder John Peterson, designated hitter Jude Dravecky, right fielder Luke Miller and second baseman Rowen Gale.

“We got really, really far in a really short period of time, so I can’t be more proud of these guys, the situation that they’ve put themselves in to be in these pressure situations,” said Gomez, who had a 16-year career in Major League Baseball. “That’s fantastic, and we’re going to keep growing this thing and keep getting better. I expect these guys to be back here pretty soon.”

Escobedo, for one, can’t wait for that opportunity.

“We have three more years to build up this program as teammates, as human beings, as young men,” he said. “We know the future is bright for Pacifica.”

Pacifica Christian also has qualified for the CIF State Southern California Regional playoffs, which begin on May 28.

Pacifica Christian's Luke Miller (17) fields a throw against San Bernardino on Tuesday.
Pacifica Christian’s Luke Miller (17) fields a throw against San Bernardino on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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