After going 8-19 in 2018, the Newport Harbor High baseball team is three wins away from matching last season’s win total. And the Sailors have only played five games this year.
The Sailors continued their hot start to the season Friday night.
Newport Harbor improved to 5-0 after winning the Newport Elks Tournament Foothill Division title with a 2-0 shutout of Trabuco Hills at Irvine’s Orange County Great Park.
The Sailors stayed undefeated by scoring two runs in the top of the seventh inning. James Ferrell came in relief in the fourth inning and only surrendered two hits to get the win.
“We played great overall as a team,” said Ferrell, who struck out four while giving up two hits and three walks. “Our chemistry has just been really good. The umpire had a tight zone in the last couple of innings, but we just managed to squeeze through, get some hits in the last couple of innings. It was a really good game.”
Newport Harbor’s Mac Briggs, who left four runners on base, redeemed himself by leading off the seventh with a single to left field. He moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Chase Greer.
Pinch-hitter Jack Bibb drove in Briggs on a double to center. Bibb scored on a Cameron Mahaffy double to left.
“I just tried to clear out my head,” Briggs said. “I knew that the last at-bat would be the most important one of the game, [in] a 0-0 ballgame. [I] just [had to] deliver.”
Ferrell escaped danger in the bottom of the seventh as Trabuco Hills (5-1) loaded the bases.
A dropped pop-up at first, followed by a single to left from Mustangs center fielder Jake Naso put the winning run at the plate. A sacrifice bunt moved the runners over with one out. Tyler Hawkins drew a walk to load the bases for Jack Korthals, but Korthals grounded out to second, giving the Sailors the championship.
Trabuco Hills left eight runners on base and Newport Harbor stranded nine.
“It was definitely hard,” said Ferrell, whose team left two runners on base in three different occasions. “Leaving runners on is never a good thing, but we just persevered through. The dugout was really good, kicked in late in the game. We were just fired up for the game.”
Danny Suarez took the loss for the Mustangs, striking out four while giving up four hits and two earned runs in 2 2/3 innings. Naso had Trabuco Hills’ two hits.
Newport Harbor’s Kelly Austin struck out six in three innings.
Richard Lemmon went two for four with a double for the Sailors, who have outscored opponents 40-10 in the first five games.
“We just got a huge group of new guys,” Briggs said. “Everyone just loves each other. [We have] great team chemistry. The main thing is that everyone just plays hard and everyone loves the game, and that translates, gets us wins.”
The Sailors, ranked No. 5 in the CIF Southern Section Division 3 preseason poll, have a nonleague home game with Sonora on Tuesday before they begin Sunset Conference play. They face three of the four teams in the Surf League, Fountain Valley on March 1, Huntington Beach on March 6 and Edison on March 8.
Newport Harbor opens Wave League play with Laguna Beach on March 15.
“This feels fantastic,” Sailors coach Evan Chalmers said of the team’s undefeated start. “We’re very excited. We have one more game before we start our [league] crossover [games]. Hopefully, we just continue to get better.”
MANNY ALVAREZ is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @MAlvarez02