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Estancia baseball sweeps Costa Mesa, moves into tie for first place in league

Hayden Pearce remembers a picture that the 2012 Estancia High baseball team took, and it featured three brooms.

The Eagles, who featured Pearce’s older brother, Brodie, as a senior that year, beat rival Costa Mesa three times in Orange Coast League play. There was a broom for each league win.

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Seven years later, Hayden is now the senior for Estancia. On Wednesday afternoon, the 2019 Eagles did it one better in the younger Pearce’s final Battle for the Bell game.

They took a picture with the Paul Troxel trophy, given to the winner of the rivalry series each year, as well as four brooms. Estancia swept the series with Costa Mesa this year, improving to 4-0 over the Mustangs with Wednesday’s 3-2 league victory at home.

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The 4-0 mark includes three Orange Coast League games, as well as the Halo Classic showcase game at Angel Stadium. Estancia had won the trophy for eight straight years until Costa Mesa took it last season.

At least as importantly, Estancia (12-10, 7-4 in league) has moved into a first-place tie in the league with Costa Mesa (9-8, 7-4) with four league games remaining. Orange and Santa Ana are tied for third place, a half-game back at 6-4.

“It’s going to go down to the last week,” Estancia coach Kevin Conlin said. “Costa Mesa, that’s a really good team, so for us to sweep them this year, it really says a lot about our guys.”

Estancia High's Justin Wood throws a complete game against Costa Mesa in an Orange Coast League game on Wednesday.
Estancia High's Justin Wood throws a complete game against Costa Mesa in an Orange Coast League game on Wednesday. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Conlin could say plenty about the way that right-handed pitcher Justin Wood competed. Wood (4-2) threw a complete game, allowing one earned run on three hits.

“He competed really well,” Conlin said. “The last few starts were probably not his best outings, but he really stepped up today as a senior captain. He didn’t get too overwhelmed. He didn’t let things get to him, just took it pitch by pitch.”

Wood walked one, struck out six and hit a batter, and he retired 12 of the final 13 Mustangs to bat after the third inning.

“I was just throwing to contact and hoping they were making plays behind me, and they were,” Wood said. “I just trusted my team.”

Estancia High's Josh Caldales makes a diving catch on a ball hit by Costa Mesa's Miguel Rodriguez during an Orange Coast League game on Wednesday.
Estancia High's Josh Caldales makes a diving catch on a ball hit by Costa Mesa's Miguel Rodriguez during an Orange Coast League game on Wednesday. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Costa Mesa took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, after Miguel Rodriguez reached on an infield error, stole second and came home on Omar Munoz’s single to left. But Estancia plated three in the bottom of the second.

Troy Huber led off with a walk, and one out later, Nick Peralez hustled for an infield single. The next batter, Josh Caldales, hit a grounder to third base.

The throw to first was wide and pulled Munoz off the bag. He attempted to tag Caldales in the base path, but the ball popped out of his glove and Huber was able to score.

With two outs, Pearce and Jake Covey each followed with run-scoring singles. None of the three runs was earned for Costa Mesa senior right-hander David Gonzalez, who went the whole way, allowing four hits, walking one and striking out two.

“The bottom line is that we have to support our pitchers, and we’re just not doing that,” said Costa Mesa coach Kevin Chavez, whose team suffered a 5-0 loss to the Eagles on Tuesday. “We’re not making plays behind him … I thought [Gonzalez] did an outstanding job today. You couldn’t ask more of him. A lot of ground balls, and we’ve just got to make the play.”

Both Conlin and Chavez said their teams likely have to win out in league action to claim the title. Estancia hosts Santa Ana on Tuesday, while Costa Mesa plays at Orange.

Brooms aside, Hayden Pearce said the Eagles have a bit of unfinished business.

“Honestly, I care more about winning league,” he said. “Winning the Bell is cool, but I’ve got my eyes focused on league.”

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