Justin Brodt’s two homers put Huntington Beach back on track with win at Fountain Valley
Heading into the late innings of Friday’s Sunset League showdown at Fountain Valley High, Huntington Beach’s baseball team found itself in unfamiliar territory.
Trailing 2-1 after five innings, the top-ranked team in the state by CalHiSports.com was in danger of losing the rubber match of the three-game series with the Barons. Fountain Valley handed the Oilers their worst loss of the season on Wednesday, a 20-4 blowout defeat on their home turf.
While the suspense mounted, there was no sense of panic on display from Huntington Beach. The Oilers relied on their biggest player — 6-foot-7 Justin Brodt — to come through. And he did twice.
Brodt hit two-run home runs in the sixth and seventh innings, securing the Oilers’ 6-2 victory and one of the league’s three automatic berths into the CIF Southern Section playoffs.
This group doesn’t have any superstar in it, but they all believe they can get the job done. For Justin to do that was huge for us, obviously.
Oilers coach Benji Medure
Huntington Beach (22-4, 10-1 in league), ranked No. 1 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll, is two games up on second-place Los Alamitos (16-8, 8-3) and four ahead of third-place Fountain Valley (15-9, 6-5). The Oilers, who hold the head-to-head advantage over the Barons, are close to repeating as league champions, and Brodt is a big reason why, finishing three for four with five runs batted in.
With two outs and a runner on first in the top of the sixth, Brodt launched a two-run blast over the right-field fence to give the Oilers a 3-2 lead. He took the plate again in the following inning, and was given the green light on a 3-0 pitch.
The senior first baseman confirmed Huntington Beach coach Benji Medure’s confidence. He turned an elevated pitch into his second two-run home run.
“We’ve been coming from behind a lot, and we’ve been pretty resilient,” said Medure, whose team has four games left in league, two against Los Alamitos next week. “This group doesn’t have any superstar in it, but they all believe they can get the job done. They feel like it’s their responsibility to get the job done. For Justin to do that was huge for us, obviously. He’s been really pressing to contribute. Now, the fact that he had a big contribution today, if you get him rolling, we’re going to be a tough offense.”
After a quiet first inning and a half, Fountain Valley first baseman Noah Amenta shot a single through the left side of the infield for one of his two hits. The Barons then capitalized on a pair of Huntington Beach miscues to produce the first run of the game.
Amenta advanced to second base on an errant pickoff attempt from Josh Hahn to Brodt, and he would take third later in the at-bat on a groundout from Cole Wentz. Next up was Jake Brooks, who drove in Amenta and reached base himself, as an attempt on the runner at home came up short.
The Barons continued to hold the momentum in the top of the third inning, as starting pitcher Nathan Wilson sat down three consecutive batters. But as Hahn returned to the mound in the bottom of the third, the Oilers began to discover their groove.
Hahn struck out the next three batters he faced. He then drew a walk to lead off the fourth inning. Next up was designated hitter Jag Burden, who reached base on an error as a double-play turn from shortstop Sebastian Murillo sailed wide. The errant throw advanced Burden to second base, and a single from catcher Nick Lopez would move him over to third.
Brodt took the plate next and scorched an RBI single to center field to even the score at 1-1. The game would not be tied long.
The Barons strung together three consecutive hits to answer back with a run of their own in the bottom half of the fourth. Senior outfielder Shea Adame drove in the go-ahead run on a double over right fielder Dylan Ramirez, and the stage was set for a potential big inning for Fountain Valley.
Leading 2-1 with one out and a pair of runners in scoring position, the Barons called for a squeeze play. The decision backfired.
Jake Bitzer popped up the bunt attempt on a perfectly placed pitch from Hahn, a junior committed to UCLA. It was caught by Brodt and he fired to third baseman Ken Takada for an inning-ending double play.
“It was a big play in the game,” Brodt said. “I saw him square around, and I was already in a little bit, so I crashed. I saw the ball up, and I knew we had the guy at third. That’s another moment where our pitcher does a great job hitting his spots and getting that out.”
This key play kept the Oilers within striking distance, and set up another pivotal moment to follow.
Fountain Valley coach Deric Yanagisawa pulled Wilson in the top of the sixth. The right-hander had given up a hard-hit line drive to deep center, saved by a leaping grab by Bitzer, and allowed a walk to start the inning. Wilson struck out two batters in 5 1/3 innings, while giving up two hits, two runs and six walks.
Brooks, a UCLA commit, entered the game in relief to face Brodt, who proceeded to blast the first of his two game-changing home runs.
Regardless of the outcome, Yanagisawa had no doubt in the decision to hand the ball to his talented sophomore at that moment.
“Brooks was fresh,” said Yanagisawa, whose team now has a one-game lead on fourth-place Edison (13-12, 5-6) and plays the Chargers twice next week. “He hadn’t thrown all week. I couldn’t go this whole week, and not have one of my better arms give us a chance to win with a lead. It backfired, and I’m OK with that. My fault, whatever, I’ll wear that one. If I’m in that same situation again, I’m going right back to Brooks with no hesitation.”
JOSH CRISWELL is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @joshccriswell
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