With Jarrett Thompson on the mound in Thursday’s regular-season finale, Corona del Mar High didn’t need much offense to clinch a CIF Southern Section Division 2 baseball playoff berth.
Thompson was dominant, and the Sea Kings got all they could out of a three-hit attack to beat visiting Laguna Beach 3-1 and finish in second place in the Wave League.
First baseman Luc Stuka and catcher Nick Rottler homered, and Nolan Dunn doubled and scored on a bases-loaded walk as the Sea Kings scored in each of the first three innings, then rode Thompson into the seventh, when Laguna Beach made things interesting.
The Breakers scored a run and had the bases loaded with one out before reliever Tanner Ivey induced a double-play grounder to finish it and allow CdM to make the postseason for the fifth straight season. The Sea Kings learn Monday who they open the playoffs with.
“[Returning to the playoffs] was one of the goals,” said coach Kevin McCaffrey, in his first year in charge of the Sea Kings. “We moved up [from the Pacific Coast League to a tougher league], and there are four really good teams. To be able to say you made the playoffs in this great league, it’s a step in the right direction for these guys.”
With champion Marina beating Newport Harbor 4-1 in the other Thursday game, CdM (18-8-1, 5-4 in league) would have finished second in defeat, because it swept the three-game series against Laguna Beach (16-13, 3-6).
The Breakers, who last missed the postseason in 2008, would have finished second with a victory and a Newport Harbor win by virtue of the best record in games involving the three schools. They instead are third, thanks to three wins over Newport Harbor (16-10, 3-6), and will apply for an at-large berth to the Division 2 playoffs.
“We'll put in for a wild card, but I don't think there's a spot for us,” Laguna Beach coach Jeff Sears said. “I don't think there's [an at-large berth available] for anybody, just doing the math. ... You never know. Crazier things have happened. You can always hope.
“I'll go to church on Sunday, and good lord willing, we'll get to play another day.”
Marina (19-10, 7-2) is headed to the Division 3 playoffs.
Thompson took a perfect game into the fourth inning, struck out six and walked none, and surrendered just three hits — two long doubles by Cutter Clawson and an infield single by Nolan Naess — in six innings. He said his fastball “was a lot better than usual” and his off-speed pitches were “breaking, like, a lot.”
“I can't say enough for what Jarrett did,” McCaffrey said. “That was unbelievable. To have your best game in a game that means everything, I'm excited for him and what he did today.”
Clawson's second double, to lead off the seventh, ended Thompson's afternoon. Ivey got the first out, then hit Charlie Pillsbury with a pitch and gave up a single to Aiden Kidd to load the bases. Will Potratz then singled Clawson home, and Ivey got Jeremy Hayes to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
Stuka provided the first-inning lead, clearing the right-field fence with his seventh homer of the season. Rottler led off the second with a blast over the fence in right-center, his fourth home run of the year.
“Those really fired me up, especially when your catcher hits one out,” Thompson said. “That fires you up even more, because you're working with him all game. It made me pitch better.”
Dunn doubled off the wall in left to lead off the third, and the bases were loaded when Stuka was intentionally walked with one out and Breakers starter Peyton Fullerton walked Reece Berger with two out. A walk to Rottler with a full count brought home Dunn.
Three runs were more than enough to keep CdM’s season alive.
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