Huntington Beach High showed why it is still one of the top baseball teams in California.
The Oilers, ranked No. 2 in the state by CalHiSports.com, closed out the Boras Classic South tournament with a dominant performance, cruising to a 9-0 shutout of No. 19 San Diego Cathedral Catholic at JSerra High on Friday night.
Huntington Beach (16-3) attacked early and never let up against the Dons. After losing Tuesday's opener, the Oilers won three in a row in the loser's bracket to place ninth in one of the premier baseball tournaments in the country.
Zeke Ziegler, Jordan Vance and Matthew Blokdyk combined to throw a two-hitter against Cathedral Catholic (8-5). The trio struck out five.
The Oilers wasted no time to get rolling once they took the plate. Center fielder Jake Vogel led off the first inning with an infield single. Designated hitter Josh Hahn followed with a single to right, moving Vogel over to third.
Dylan Ramirez grounded to second for the Oilers' first out, but not before Vogel crossed the plate. Catcher Nick Lopez singled in Hahn from second in the next at-bat for the second of two first-inning runs.
"This is great for us," said Vogel, who reached base three times, scored three runs and drove in another. "It gives us a lot of momentum going forward into the second half of our season. I think it's awesome."
Huntington Beach picked up where it left off in the next inning, with another infield hit translating into a run. This time it was Edward Pelc, a University of San Diego commit, who reached on a grounder before capitalizing on the basepaths.
Pelc advanced to second base on a dropped pitch, and proceeded to score from second on an RBI groundout from Vogel. An unsuspecting Cathedral Catholic defense was caught off guard, as Pelc broke for third on the pitch and never slowed down. Although he was tagged out at home, Dons catcher Bradley Polinsky was called for obstruction, resulting in a run for the Oilers.
The four games in the Boras Classic were the first for Pelc at Huntington Beach. The junior sat out the first 30 days because of CIF transfer rules. He went two for three with two runs scored on Friday.
"This team is like a family," said Pelc, who played his first two years at Sage Hill. "We're so close. Our chemistry is insane. Being able to hit the field has been a dream come true. I'm glad it's been able to start the way it has."
Ziegler settled down in the third after struggling with command through the first two innings, during which he walked two batters and gave up a pair of hits. The left-hander would retire six consecutive batters before flirting with trouble again in the fourth.
With two outs in the inning, Ziegler walked Zavien Watson and Polinsky back-to-back — the latter on four pitches — prompting Huntington Beach coach Benji Medure to bring in Vance. The junior right-hander delivered with poise, forcing Justin Campos into a groundout to leave both runners stranded.
The first pitching change of the evening would not work so well for Cathedral Catholic.
Right-hander Jake Rons entered the game, and he ran into issues in the bottom of the fourth. Pelc ripped a one-out double down the left field line, and Vogel reached base after being hit by the ensuing pitch. Then a pickoff at second base sailed into center field, moving the runners over into scoring position and setting up an intentional walk of Hahn, a junior committed to UCLA.
Ramirez drove in Pelc on a fielder's choice in the next at-bat, and moments later, Vogel crossed the plate on a passed ball to stretch the Oilers' lead to five runs.
Blokdyk, a senior right-hander, took the mound for Huntington Beach in the fifth and closed out the game by striking out three and not allowing a hit over the final three innings.
A four-run sixth inning for the Oilers squashed any comeback hopes for the Dons, who failed to mesh scoring opportunities with quality at-bats throughout the night.
"We've been struggling offensively all year," Cathedral Catholic coach Gary Remiker said. "Scoring runs has been a challenge for us since game one. We're really lacking that big hit. Maybe once we get one, it'll kind of snowball and we'll start getting some confidence at the plate, but our guys are just pressing right now."
The comfortable victory was a notable change from Huntington Beach's previous three games in the tournament. Leading up to Friday, late-inning drama had been a mainstay for the Oilers.
The Oilers were handed an opening-round defeat on Tuesday by West Covina South Hills, ending any chance of repeating as Boras Classic champions. They fell 3-2 after allowing a 2-0 lead to slip away in the bottom of the seventh inning. The loss snapped a 13-game winning streak that dated back to Feb. 28.
Huntington Beach bounced back on Wednesday with a dramatic win over Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, ranked No. 1 in the state. Hahn left two runners on in the seventh to close out a 4-2 victory. The Oilers rode the momentum to a 6-5 comeback win over Vista Murrieta on Thursday, scoring three runs to go ahead in the bottom of the sixth.
The team's resolve in responding to its first sign of adversity in over a month provides Medure with ample reason for optimism going forward. The Oilers are atop the Sunset League at 5-0, two games ahead of Fountain Valley, Los Alamitos and Newport Harbor. Huntington Beach plays at Newport Harbor on Wednesday at 3:15 p.m.
"The day that we lost, we all sat there and were devastated that we had lost the game," Medure said. "I told them, 'I'm not upset yet. I'm not upset that we lost the game. I'll be upset depending on what we do the next couple days.' How we responded is the real test in our character.
"We have to give these guys credit. They played some of the best teams in America and played them tough, even though we were in the loser's bracket. That is the biggest thing I enjoy about these guys. They compete every single day."