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Huntington Beach baseball surges late, advances to regional semifinals

Shortstop Travis Curry (2) of Huntington Beach nails Trevor Smith (6) stealing second against El Cajon Granite Hills.
Shortstop Travis Curry (2) of Huntington Beach nails Trevor Smith (6) stealing second during the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs against El Cajon Granite Hills on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)
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Senior third baseman Tony Martinez is a three-year starter for the Huntington Beach High baseball team.

In a few days, he hopes he can say that he’s also a two-time CIF State Southern California Regional champion.

Martinez helped the Oilers get off to a good start on Tuesday at their home field, driving in three runs and making perhaps the defensive play of the game.

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Huntington Beach pulled away late, earning an 8-3 win over El Cajon Granite Hills in the first round of the SoCal Regional Division I playoffs.

The Oilers (24-9), seeded No. 3 in the eight-team draw, will play at home again Thursday when they host No. 7-seeded La Mirada in a regional semifinal game at 4 p.m. La Mirada beat No. 2-seeded Torrey Pines 4-2 on the road Tuesday, in another first round game.

Huntington Beach, which lost at eventual champion Corona in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals, is trying to rebound for its second regional title in three years.

Huntington Beach's Tony Martinez (13) slugs a two-run double during Tuesday's game.
Huntington Beach’s Tony Martinez (13) slugs a two-run double during the first round of the CIF State Southern California Regional Division I playoffs against El Cajon Granite Hills on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Martinez, bound for San Francisco State, helped his team get a step closer. He was one for three with a two-run double and a sacrifice fly, narrowly missing a home run on a deep fly to center field.

“He barreled three out of four balls and made two huge plays for us,” Huntington Beach coach Benji Medure said. “I’d expect that from him. He’s our best defender, he’s our team captain. This is all coming together nicely for him, and it should. He’s a great kid.”

He also flashed the leather in the top of the sixth, diving to his left to take a hit away from Granite Hills’ Parker Vance. Oilers junior Jayton Greer dug out the throw to first.

“I had fielded one earlier in the game that was a little closer,” Martinez said. “This one, I thought I might have to dive. It worked out. I knew that Jayton would [pick it on the other end].”

Huntington Beach took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, as leadoff hitter Ethan Porter walked, stole second and eventually scored on CJ Weinstein’s single up the middle. Weinstein advanced to second on an error, and after Trent Grindlinger and Greer walked to load the bases, Martinez skied a sacrifice fly to right.

Huntington Beach's Matt Hanson (31) hits a double against El Cajon Granite Hills on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Granite Hills (22-8), which made the semifinals of the San Diego Section Open Division, had evened the score by the fifth inning on solo home runs from Vance in the second and Jordan Mansfield in the fifth. But Huntington Beach senior starting pitcher Nathan Aceves, who went five innings before being relieved by Otto Espinoza and Colin McNiven, still got the win after the Oilers erupted for four runs in the bottom of the frame.

Porter was hit by a pitch, and Trevor Goldenetz followed with a single to left. An out later, Grindlinger walked to again load the bases.

Greer struck quickly, lining a two-run double down the left-field line on the first pitch he saw to score two runs. Martinez followed with a double over the right fielder’s head, plating pinch-runners Nate Cox and Tanner Edson.

Huntington Beach added two more runs in the sixth. John Petrie reached on an error, and pinch-runner Braedon Peterson-Cheek scored on Goldenetz’s single to center. Goldenetz himself would come around to score on Grindlinger’s RBI double.

Tony Martinez of Huntington Beach makes a diving stop of a hard-hit ball to third base, getting the runner at first.
Tony Martinez of Huntington Beach makes a diving stop of a hard-hit ball to third base, getting the runner at first, against Granite Hills on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Medure said he changed up his approach from the team’s strategy for regionals two years ago. In 2022, he gave the team 10 days off after it lost in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals, and he felt the Oilers weren’t at their best in a win at La Costa Canyon to open regionals.

This year, he said he gave the team just one day off following the loss to Corona.

Though he still didn’t feel Huntington Beach was at its sharpest, he thought the Oilers hit the ball well.

“All we did all last week was face our arms,” he said. “Every single day, we faced live pitching. It’s not really the intensity of a game, but at least they saw live arms coming at them. Our arms are pretty good, so they faced good pitching all week.

“I think getting this win out of the way, we’re going to play a much better game on Thursday.”

Jayton Greer (50) and Jake Frohn (51) of Huntington Beach celebrate a two-run double hit by Tony Martinez.
Jayton Greer (50) and Jake Frohn (51) of Huntington Beach celebrate a two-run double hit by Tony Martinez against Granite Hills on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Spring Valley Mount Miguel 2, Pacifica Christian Orange County 0: The Tritons fell on the road Tuesday in the first round of the Southern California Regional Division V playoffs.

Pacifica Christian (22-8), seeded No. 6 in the bracket, was making its first regional appearance. The Tritons, in just their third varsity season, advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 8 title game this year.

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