NEWPORT BEACH — Going into Friday's CIF Southern Section Division VI first-round playoff game against Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley, Sage Hill baseball sat in the unknown.
Any time a squad starts a 36-team tournament with schools from all over Southern California not knowing who or what you are facing can be crippling to a team.
Sage Hill on the other hand, was not fazed. And if anything, the Lightning can rest a little easier now that they know hitters one through nine are capable of putting up big numbers.
After six innings of non-stop work at the plate, Sage Hill produced 17 hits and only struck out three times to win in a rout, 21-1.
The No. 5-seeded Lightning (18-5) will try to keep it going in the second round Tuesday, when they play at Windward of Los Angeles. The Wildcats (9-13) won at Buckley, 5-4, in Sherman Oaks.
Against Calvary Chapel (13-7), the game may have appeared tight early on, as the Lions tied the score, 1-1, before Sage Hill went up to bat in the second. But the Lightning struck with seven runs.
"We didn't know a lot about these guys," Sage Hill Coach Andy Berglund said. "But, you have to prepare like any game in CIF is going to be tough. We had a plan to get out early but we did not necessarily expect that."
The Lightning opened things up in the second inning after Alex Jimenez led off the inning with a double and was driven in on a base hit up the middle by Allen Brown to lead, 2-1. Once Jimenez crossed the plate on the hit, the floodgates let loose.
Patrick Vorwerck hit a chopper to the pitcher, who overthrew his first baseman, allowing Brown to score. Sean Vogel then singled Vorwerck in and after Michael Yorita walked, A.J. Wolfson cracked a two-run double up the right-field line to put Sage Hill up, 6-1, in the second inning.
The Lightning scored two more runs later in the inning and from that point on, the game was much of the same thing. Sage Hill continuously put the ball in play and took advantage of seeing the pitchers in multiple at-bats and sometimes in the same inning.
"It wasn't too close of a game but I think it sets us up well for the next round," senior shortstop Sean Vogel said. "It allowed a lot of guys to see a lot of curveballs and we got 17 hits, so that can't be a negative. "
Any negativity was miles away from the Sage Hill bench. With its ace Wolfson putting in four solid innings with one walk and allowing only two hits on one earned run, the Lightning were operating like a well-oiled machine. Players were still diving to make plays in the field and taking purposeful hacks at the plate, well aware that every CIF at-bat counts.
"They stayed sharp," Berglund said. "I was a little upset that we stranded some runners early but after that they reacted very well offensively. We picked up runners and scored a lot of runs. Any at-bat in CIF to me is important and we even got guys that will play crucial roles later on to come in and get some hacks."
One player that may have benefited the most from the early blowout was Brown, who threw three innings in relief with one walk, two strikeouts and only two hits given up. His entrance into the game allows the coaching the staff more flexibility with pitching options as Wolfson can now pitch in the second round and Brown can be relied on late in games if need be.
"I think anything is possible," Berglund said. "We can be considered one of the teams to look out for. You will eventually have to play a one, two or three seed if you are fortunate enough to get further. But if we play the way we are capable of playing, then we will give anybody a game."
CIF Division VI playoffs First round Sage Hill 11, Calvary Chapel of Moreno Valley 1 SCORE BY INNINGS
Calvary 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 5 8 Sage Hill
1 7 3 6 3 1 X — 21 17 0 Wolfson, Brown (5) and Orrantia; Klopfenstein, Malana (2), Schirner (5) and Berringer. W – Wolfson, 7-1. L – Klopfenstein, 1-3. 2B – Wolfson (SH), Kreitenberg (SH), Jimenez (SH), Brown (SH), Vorwerck (SH).
CIF Playoffs Calvary Chapel…1Sage Hill…21