Harvard-Westlake baseball rallies to knock out Huntington Beach in CIF Division 1 semifinals

From a 2-2 count, Studio City Harvard-Westlake High junior Tyler Ganus fouled off six straight pitches before taking a curveball high.

He then fouled off two more pitches. The 14th pitch of the at-bat was outside, and Ganus drew a walk off Huntington Beach left-handed pitcher Josh Hahn in the bottom of the first inning of Tuesday’s CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal playoff game.

The UCLA-bound Hahn gave up just one run in the frame at O’Malley Family Field in Encino, when Drew Bowser singled to score Pete Crow-Armstrong. Hahn left the bases loaded, but he also threw 40 pitches.

“They made him work,” Oilers coach Benji Medure said of Hahn, who exited after four innings and 91 pitches thrown. “Ganus’ at-bat was probably the play of the game, if you really think about it. His at-bat was really an inning that Josh could have gone, one more inning.”

Harvard-Westlake was able to get to the Oilers’ bullpen.

The host Wolverines scored a run in the fifth and four more in the sixth, breaking open a 6-2 victory and ending the No. 4-seeded Oilers’ baseball season.

Harvard-Westlake (27-5-1) will play Cypress, a 1-0 winner over La Mirada in nine innings, for the title on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

Huntington Beach High's Josh Hahn, left, yells, "Lets Go!" to teammates Jag Burden, center, and Edward Pelc after getting out of a jam in the fourth inning against Studio City Harvard-Westlake in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal playoff game on Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach (25-7) led for much of Tuesday’s game, which turned into a pitching duel between Hahn and Harvard-Westlake sophomore right-hander Christian Becerra.

“[The first inning] was huge,” Harvard-Westlake coach Jared Halpert said. “Whenever you can get the starter who’s going to UCLA off the mound, that can’t hurt you by any stretch of the imagination. We didn’t want to look ahead. They got out of that inning only giving up one run … ridiculous for them to get out of that right there. But obviously, we tried to keep the dugout up and keep momentum on our side and let the guys know that he did just throw 40 pitches.”

The Oilers took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second, when Brett Barrera and Shane Stafford led off with back-to-back doubles. Stafford scored on Nick Upstill’s single to right.

But Huntington Beach didn’t get much going after that against Becerra, who left after five innings. He retired the final eight batters he faced, allowing four hits and two earned runs while striking out one. Left-hander Bryant Reese pitched a scoreless sixth to earn the win, before Vanderbilt-bound ace Sam Hlibaki closed out the Oilers in the seventh.

Huntington Beach High's Josh Hahn, right, consoles reliever Edward Pelc after Studio City Harvard-Westlake scored four runs in the sixth inning of a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal playoff game on Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Harvard-Westlake scored a run in the fifth to tie the score 2-2, as Ganis’ sacrifice fly brought in Bowser. The Wolverines then broke it open in the sixth against Oilers senior left-handed reliever Edward Pelc.

Bowser, a junior shortstop and Stanford commit who went four for four with three runs batted in, fisted a bases-loaded single to center to score Sam Biller and Tyler Cox. Then, with two outs, Jacob Calloway’s single to right scored two more runs.

“He gave us what he had,” Medure said of Pelc, who went six innings in Friday’s 2-1 quarterfinal win at Aliso Niguel. “We knew he was going to be on fumes, and we didn’t really care what he could give us on Saturday. We were just trying to get to Saturday, and he gave us what he had. I went out there and hugged him when I took the ball from him, and I told him I was sorry that I left him out there. I feel awful about that, but he wouldn’t have had it any other way. He wanted to be the guy that was out there. It’s kind of fitting that he was the last guy out there, because he’s been our heart and soul all year.”

Barrera led off the seventh with a single to center, but he was doubled off first base on Cole Minato’s lineout to center to end the game.

Huntington Beach High's Brett Barrera hits a leadoff single in the seventh inning against Studio City Harvard-Westlake in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal playoff game on Tuesday.
(Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)

Halpert said his team, which rallied to upset top-seeded Orange Lutheran 4-3 in the quarterfinals, is hungry to have success after losing in the first round the last two seasons. He gave credit to Huntington Beach and Medure, calling him a mentor when he first got into coaching eight years ago.

Medure, in his 19th season, fell two games short of leading the Oilers to their second crown since 2015. But he said the season was a success for the Surf League champions.

Jag Burden had the other hit for Huntington Beach, a ground-rule double.

“I felt like we were incredibly tough down the stretch,” Medure said. “We played hurt. We had a lot of injuries this year, and to go 25-7 with the amount of injuries we had shows how tough these kids are. We grinded until the end, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”


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