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Laguna Beach baseball can't solve Tahquitz's Jahred Butler in playoff opener

The last two CIF Southern Section Division 4 baseball champions met Thursday in the first round of the Division 2 playoffs at Laguna Beach High.

Laguna Beach moved up two divisions after winning Division 4 in 2016. Hemet Tahquitz did the same this season after earning the 2017 title.

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Senior right-handed pitcher Jahred Butler helped the visiting Titans move on in their quest for a second straight section title.

Butler threw a complete game as Tahquitz handed Laguna Beach a season-ending 3-1 loss. Tahquitz (18-9), the second-place team from the Mountain Pass League, will play host to Chatsworth Sierra Canyon on Tuesday in the second round.

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Butler was a big reason why. He allowed one earned run and four hits, walking just one batter and striking out 10 to improve to 10-2 this season.

“My pitching coach told me, ‘If you want to be effective today, you’ve got to throw every pitch for a strike,’ ” said Butler, who threw 109 pitches. “The curveball was a must, and I really threw the changeup a lot to the lefties … In the first inning, I wasn’t locating [my pitches] and it showed, but after that I just settled down and pounded the zone.”

Orange Coast League champion Laguna Beach (19-10) got its only run in the first. Freshman Eric Silva, who finished two for three, roped a one-out double to right field. An out later, he came home on junior Cutter Clawson’s single to left.

Breakers senior starting pitcher Jack Loechner had the early lead. Loechner retired the first nine Titans batters he faced before getting into trouble in the top of the fourth. Tahquitz had the top of its order up, and Loechner gave up back-to-back walks to Zach Schwartz and Anthony Hernandez.

“That’s not him,” Laguna Beach coach Jeff Sears said. “He’s usually a very controlled pitcher. It just got loose from us one inning.”

Laguna Beach’s defense also did not help Loechner out, after a bunt single by Kyle Weatherby, who finished two for three, loaded the bases with no outs. Koba Kobayashi flew out to right field, but the throw came to third base, not home, allowing Schwartz to score.

Loechner struck out Butler swinging on a ball in the dirt, and Hernandez decided to come home after the throw to first to retire Butler. Breakers first baseman Clawson’s throw back home was a few feet up the third-base line, and Hernandez scored. Caleb Shepard then hit a run-scoring single to center for the visitors.

“Our ability to play catch has kind of bitten us in the [behind] all year long,” Sears said. “Of our 10 losses, that’s been our Achilles’ heel.”

Blake Burzell threw three shutout innings in relief for the Breakers, allowing just one hit. But the two-run cushion was more than enough for Butler. He retired Laguna Beach in order in the sixth and seventh, with no ball leaving the infield.

Sophomore Christian Holm was two for three for the Breakers from the No. 8 spot. The two hits were the only two from Laguna Beach’s Nos. 5-9 hitters.

Tahquitz coach Ron Savage said it was a big win for his program, which was in Division 5 before winning the Division 4 title last season.

“I’ve known Sears for years,” Savage said. “Great coach, great program. They rule their area down here with a mighty fist. Any time you come down here and you can beat a team like this at their place, it’s a huge win … You can see the ocean from the baseball field, so it’s a little bit different environment, but [my players] came in to grind and they’ve grinded all year.”

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