Earlier this season, Huntington Beach High baseball coach Benji Medure accomplished the 300-win milestone for his career.
As such, the Oilers have been able to count on consistent winning seasons.
With that success, the Oilers advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinals for just the first time since 2015, a season in which Huntington Beach won its only championship under Medure, who is now in his 19th year as the head coach.
Jake Vogel’s sixth-inning home run proved to be the difference, as No. 4-seeded Huntington Beach edged host Aliso Niguel 2-1 on Friday in the quarterfinals.
Huntington Beach (25-6), which has won all three of its playoff games by one run, will travel to take on Studio City Harvard-Westlake in the semifinals on Tuesday. Harvard-Westlake rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the seventh inning to earn a 4-3 walk-off victory against top-seeded Orange Lutheran in its quarterfinal game.
The score had been tied at 1-1 since the bottom of the second when Vogel stepped into the box to lead off the sixth against UCLA commit Evan Fitterer. He promptly took an elevated fastball out to the right of the scoreboard beyond the wall in left-center field.
“We were working on staying in the middle of the field all through [batting practice] this week,” said Medure, whose team edged Moorpark 1-0 in the first round and La Puente Bishop Amat 2-1 in the second round. “All of our coaches have sore arms for trying to throw so hard to try to simulate what Fitterer throws, and we still couldn’t do it from a short distance.
“Vogel put a good swing on it. The at-bats before that, all the at-bats that made him throw more pitches and made him work eventually paid off for us.”
The Oilers poured out of the dugout to greet Vogel at home plate. Vogel said it was his second career home run in a CIF playoff game.
“My adrenaline spiked,” Vogel said of rounding third and seeing his teammates cheering him on. “I was so stoked to have all of my friends back me up. The excitement was crazy.”
Fitterer went six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits while striking out 10.
The Oilers got their first run in the opening frame. Vogel singled before coming around to score when an errant throw by Fitterer went wide of the first-base bag and into foul territory up the right-field line.
Shane Stafford also had two hits for the Oilers. Josh Hahn had a double, and Dylan Ramirez recorded the other hit for Huntington Beach.
In a pitching duel, Edward Pelc gave the Oilers six strong innings against the Wolverines (28-5). The senior left-hander was emotional on the mound, ending his outing by retiring 11 of the last 12 batters that he faced.
“He’s emotional like that,” Medure said of Pelc. “He’s our leader because he’s so emotional, and he gets into it. He’s got a tight back right now. It’s running down into his hip. He’s barely practicing.
“He didn’t pick up a baseball the last two days, and so he is grinding right now. His toughness, I’ll tell you what, it makes everybody go. It makes everybody want to get out of bed and grind because he’s getting after it. He’s not feeling all that great, and you can see the competitive spirit that he has.”
Pelc struggled to command his curveball, twice hitting left-handed batters when he missed with it to his arm side. Even still, he allowed one unearned run on two hits. He struck out seven and walked two.
Pelc gave credit to his defense. One play stood out, when third baseman Ken Takada made an over-the-shoulder catch running into left field to take away a hit from David Le Bioda in the third inning.
“Web gem,” Pelc said in describing the play. “That was one of the best plays that I have ever seen in my life. He’s not even looking, and he catches that ball. That’s crazy.”
Hahn worked around a leadoff walk to record the save in the seventh inning, stranding the tying run at second base.
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