Sandwiched in between Corona del Mar High’s final two big Pacific Coast League baseball games with Beckman was the Newport Rib Co. Classic opener last week.
The Sea Kings won the first game at home against Beckman, 2-1, taking sole possession of first place in league. Then they opened the tournament at home by beating Soquel, 7-5, the same score they edged the host Patriots to take a two-game lead in league.
While CdM’s last day of school before spring break was Friday, it did not lose a beat when the Newport Rib Co. Classic continued.
The Sea Kings began their 16-team tournament first, and they ended it as the first team to win each of their four games.
For the most part, pitching carried CdM in the final three contests. Tommy Wilcox and Alex Shadid combined to throw a six-hit shutout in the Sea Kings’ 3-0 win against Palm Springs on Tuesday.
Preston Hartsell went three for three with a solo home run. The way Wilcox and Shadid pitched, striking out three batters each, CdM (14-4) didn’t need much offense. Wilcox gave up four hits in four innings and improved to 5-0, and Shadid went three innings, his longest appearance of the year.
The shutout marked CdM’s second in as many days. Chazz Martinez went the distance in a 4-0 win against Carmel on Monday, striking out 13 and allowing six hits while walking none.
The Sea Kings only walked one in their tournament finale. Other than that, they have thrown 18 consecutive scoreless innings.
The Sea Kings are playing championship-caliber baseball, but they won’t win the tournament, which wraps up Wednesday. Unlike in years past, the tournament won’t have a champion.
“We lost a team a month before the tournament started, and so we were at 15 [teams], and you can’t even run a round-robin with 15,” CdM Coach John Emme said. “Soquel was kind enough to come down [from Northern California]. They [were on spring spreak last week]. We sandwiched them Wednesday, then Estancia and Beckman adjusted for us [on Friday and played the Knights], and then [the Knights played [Bellflower] St. John Bosco] on Saturday.”
The only other team that entered Tuesday 3-0 in the tournament was Beckman, which knocked off Servite, 10-3, on Monday. Servite was ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll last week, when the Patriots were ranked No. 7 in Division 2.
With two setbacks to CdM last week, Beckman moved out of the top 10. The Sea Kings cracked the poll this week, coming in at No. 9.
“We’re in good shape right now,” said Emme, whose team is 6-1 in league, ahead of the 4-3 Patriots. “We’re getting clutch hits when we need them. The defense is playing fantastic. The pitchers are throwing strikes. That’s the biggest thing. We really are not giving up free bases.”
What Emme is going to give his players is some free time. He said they deserve to enjoy the rest of their spring break, as the Sea Kings won’t hold any practices until Monday.
The Sea Kings resume league play at home with Irvine next Tuesday. They are eight games away from finishing atop the league for the first time in 11 years.
“We feel strong. We feel like our pitching is definitely giving us a chance every day,” Hartsell said. “We got past Beckman, [winning the series, two-games-to-one] so we control our own faith [in league].”
Hartsell, a junior committed to USC, produced half of CdM’s six hits against Palm Springs (9-9-1). Matt Thompson singled in a run, and Martinez and Shadid had infield singles.
The biggest shot was Hartsell’s to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. The left-handed hitter blasted a fastball to dead-away center field, giving him his second homer of the year.
Hartsell was the lone batter left-handed starter Matthew Hills couldn’t get out. Hills (3-3) struck out eight, walked two and gave up one earned run in six innings.
“Me and [assistant] coach [Tom] Gentile [have been] really working on just keeping my hands inside,” said Hartsell, who sprayed the ball around, singling to left and right field in his first two at-bats. “When he tells me to go up there with confidence, I’m just like, ‘I got to do it for the boys.’”
Newport Rib Co. Classic
Corona del Mar 3, Palm Springs 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
Palm Springs 000 000 0 – 0 6 3
Corona del Mar 000 111 x – 3 6 0
Hills and Valverde; Wilcox, Shadid (5) and M. Thompson. W – Wilcox, 5-0. L – Hills, 3-3. HR – Hartsell (CdM).