Edison High’s Blake Morton, right, is congratulated by a teammate after making a diving catch at first base to close out the fourth inning in a Sunset Conference crossover game at Corona del Mar on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Corona del Mar’s Carter Haight can’t get to a ball hit by Edison’s Blake Morton in the fifth inning of a Sunset Conference crossover game on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Corona del Mar’s Will Butler beats the tag by Edison’s Ted Buton on a stolen base in the fourth inning of a Sunset Conference crossover game on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Corona del Mar’s Kieran Sidebotham makes a play on a ball hit by Edison’s Hunter Baclig during a Sunset Conference crossover game on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Edison’s Sam Rice pitches during a Sunset Conference crossover game a game at Corona del Mar on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Corona del Mar’s Tommy Wilcox pitches during a Sunset Conference crossover game against Edison on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Edison’s Blake Morton looks to the bench after doubling in the fifth inning of a Sunset Conference crossover game at Corona del Mar on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Corona del Mar’s Ryan Zimmerman slides safely into third base as Edison’s Kevin Hultgren waits for the ball during a Sunset Conference crossover game on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Corona del Mar’s Blake Butcher rounds second on a double by Luc Stuka in the second inning of a Sunset Conference crossover game on Friday.(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)
Edison High welcomed Corona del Mar to Sunset Conference baseball Friday afternoon, giving the Sea Kings a taste of what’s to come in a 7-2 win built on savvy at-bats, one defensive gem and a superb effort from its bullpen.
The visiting Chargers (7-3) went ahead right away, watched CdM (5-1-1) catch up on Nick Rottler’s two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning, responded by taking the lead again in the second, and conceded just two hits the rest of the way en route to their fifth successive victory.
“We had some tough losses at the beginning [of the season], started 1-2 and 2-3, but that’s our fifth win a row against quality teams,” Edison coach Cameron Chinn said. “We’ve had a strong bullpen, outstanding defense, everyone buying in, a team effort. We have a lot of things to work on and improve, and it’s a daily process, but I really like the way we’re playing right now.”
The game didn’t count in the standings — the Sunset is now two four-team leagues, with Edison in the Surf League and CdM in the Wave League — but it offered the Sea Kings, newcomers from the Pacific Coast League, an idea of what the competition is like in what annually is one of the CIF Southern Section’s strongest leagues.
The Chargers applied heavy pressure at the plate, getting nine hits and seven walks — they left 11 on base, eight in scoring position — against a pitching staff that had allowed just four runs while posting three shutouts in its first six games.
“We just came off a big [3-0] win [at home Thursday] against Mater Dei,” said catcher Hunter Baclig, who led Edison with two hits, a run and a run batted in. “So we had a lot of confidence today.”
Both starting pitchers struggled. Chinn went to his bullpen quickly after Sam Rice had thrown 14 balls against 13 strikes in the second inning. Andrew Ballas came in and struck out the last five batters he faced in a two-inning stint, and left-hander Matt Swartz, the Chargers’ fourth pitcher, was outstanding, allowing just one hit in the final three innings.
“[Swartz has] got an electric fastball, and then he can keep guys off-balance with the off-speed pitches,” Chinn said. “Just the fact that he attacked the strike zone was the big thing.”
First baseman Blake Morton chipped in with a diving stop at the bag on Luc Stuka’s two-out line drive in the bottom of the fourth with runners at first and third, and the Chargers manufactured four runs in the final three innings to pull away.
Tennessee-bound right-hander Tommy Wilcox wasn’t sharp for CdM, and Edison took advantage. Caden Kendle and Garrett Runyan singled to start the game and a two-out walk to Swartz loaded the bases. Baclig chopped a single over the mound to drive in one run, and Wilcox hit Morton with a pitch to bring home another.
Rottler’s homer to left, after Kieran Sidebotham walked, made things even, but Rottler dropped a two-out third strike on Runyan, who raced safely to first, and Wilcox walked Caden Aoki — who tossed a one-hit shutout against Mater Dei — on a full count. Ted Burton’s single to left brought home the winning run.
Edison added to it in the fourth — Baclig singled, went to third on Morton’s double to the right-field wall and came home on Luke Serven’s slow roller to short — and again in the fifth as Kendle walked, took second on Kevin Hultgren’s sacrifice bunt and scored on Aoki’s opposite-field single.
Two two-out, two-strike singles and two walks in the seventh sealed the win, with Tyler Weaver’s opposite-field hit bringing home Serven and Cisco Haley.
“We learned a lot ...,” first-year CdM coach Kevin McCaffrey said. “It’s great baseball [in the Sunset Conference]. There’s eight really good teams, and every game is going to be a battle. We’re stepping up, playing the big dogs, and we want that challenge.”
SCOTT FRENCH is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottJFrench