Huntington Beach High baseball coach Benji Medure made a lineup change after the Oilers returned from the prestigious National High School Invitational tournament in North Carolina in early April.
What Medure noticed was that junior Jag Burden kept getting on base. He moved Burden from No. 5 in the lineup to the leadoff spot.
“I mean, he finds a way of getting on base and clutch hitting, so we put him at the top,” Medure said. “We always talk about that we’ve lost multiple playoff games with our leadoff hitter as the last hitter with a guy in scoring position. We always say, who do we want our leadoff hitter to be if the game’s on the line and there’s one more at-bat? Right now, it’s Jag, so that’s why he’s there.”
The lineup turned over in the bottom of the seventh inning Tuesday, as the Oilers hosted La Puente Bishop Amat in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
He hit a one-out, bases-loaded single to left to score pinch-runner Joe Yost as Huntington Beach earned a 2-1 victory.
Fourth-seeded Huntington Beach (25-6) advanced to the quarterfinals for the second time in three years. The Oilers will play at Aliso Niguel in a quarterfinal game Friday at 3:15 p.m. Aliso Niguel beat El Toro 1-0 in nine innings, in another second-round game Tuesday.
The Surf League champion Oilers were shut down for much of the game by Del Rey League champion Bishop Amat (20-9) and sophomore starter Izeah Muniz. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder delivered a big performance. He held Huntington Beach to just two hits through five innings, both of those singles by Josh Hahn.
Hahn got the start on the mound for Huntington Beach. He went five innings, allowing his lone run in the top of the first after the Lancers loaded the bases with no outs. Blake Archuleta’s sacrifice fly scored Tyler White.
Huntington Beach finally got to Muniz in the bottom of the sixth. Burden led off with a triple down the first-base line, and he came home on Jake Vogel’s single to left.
“The third time around [through the lineup], we’re bound to just hit somebody,” said Huntington Beach senior second baseman Brett Barrera, who had a pair of walks on his 18th birthday.
When stuff falls [like it did in the later innings today], it just gives us hope that we can go all the way.
It was the bottom of the order that set the stage for the game-winning run in the seventh. With one out, Cole DiMarco drew a full-count walk, and Joe Yost pinch-ran. Pinch-hitter Shane Stafford poked a single to right and Yost went from first to third, barely getting there despite a strong throw from White, the Bishop Amat right fielder.
“[Yost] was gone from the second the ball was hit,” Medure said. “He told me that, and he made a great play. Stafford’s pinch-hit was huge right there. When you have the depth that we have, I can kind of plug guys in and it works out.”
Dylan Ramirez, the Oilers’ No. 9 hitter, walked to load the bases. Burden came up and he turned on a fastball on a 2-0 count, ripping it to left field for the walk-off hit.
“All the time, I’m thinking fastball and just reacting to changeups,” Burden said. “That’s kind of my approach … When he threw a fastball, I was on time for it.”
Senior left-hander Edward Pelc (6-1) got the win in relief for the Oilers, pitching two no-hit innings.
Huntington Beach has yet to face Sea View League champion Aliso Niguel (29-4) this season. On Friday, the Oilers will be trying to make the semifinals for the first time since winning the program’s only CIF championship in 2015.
“This is huge for us, especially the way we’ve been swinging it,” Burden said. “We’ve been making good contact, just things aren’t falling. When stuff falls [like it did in the later innings today], it just gives us hope that we can go all the way.”
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