NEWPORT COAST — Most of the Sage Hill School seniors will enjoy a class rafting trip to the American River early next week. But the nine seniors on the Lightning baseball team will be otherwise engaged in a unprecedented adventure of their own.
The host Lightning upset No. 4-seeded Vasquez, 6-5, in their first CIF Southern Section Division VI quarterfinal appearance Friday. The win propels the most successful team in Sage Hill history (20-5) into Tuesday's semifinal against top-seeded Desert Christian.
Desert Christian (25-1) will take the long bus ride to try to extend its winning streak to 19. The Knights, who entered Friday's quarterfinal with a team earned-run average of 1.86, have outscored teams, 339-55 this season. They topped Capistrano Valley Christian, 11-6, at home Friday.
Playing Tuesday was on the mind of Sage Hill senior A.J. Wolfson, who allowed five hits and two earned runs in 6 2/3 innings to earn the win and improve to 8-1.
"There was a class meeting [Friday] about the senior trip and I never showed up," said Wolfson, whose team erased a 2-0 deficit with five runs in the fourth inning and another in the fifth, before holding on as Vasquez (18-3) scored three in the seventh and stranded runners at second and third. "I didn't want to learn anything about [the trip], because that would show I wasn't expecting to win [Friday]. And I expected to win, 100%.
"Getting a [CIF championship] ring or going rafting? You can go rafting any other time. This is [the seniors'] last chance, ever to get a ring."
Six senior starters, two juniors and a sophomore helped the hosts move closer to their section title dream, a cause aided by five errors from a depleted Vasquez squad. The Mustangs, who needed 13 innings to win their second-round game Tuesday at Kern Valley, were without Coach Bob James, as well as their best power hitter, senior Shadoe Jewett, who were both ejected Tuesday and, by rule, ineligible for the team's next game.
But with Wolfson on the mound, six Lightning getting at least one hit, and seven spots in the order producing either a hit or a run or both, Sage added to its historic season.
"Getting to the quarterfinals, we made history," Sage Coach Andy Berglund said. "And winning this game, we upped the ante and made history again. Everything we're doing is such a thrill for these guys and you see it in their faces. To come away with a win and get to the semifinals is absolutely huge for this school and the baseball program."
Vasquez, from Acton, nearly came up huge in its final at-bat, as a two-out error opened the door to a three-run rally.
But senior Alex Jimenez, who earned the win in a 3-1 road triumph Tuesday against Windward of Los Angeles, came on to record the final out and post his second save of the season.
Senior first baseman Patrick Vorwerck and junior left fielder Allen Brown both went two for three with one run batted in and one run in the Nos. 8 and 9 spots in the batting order, respectively, to pace the Lightning's eight-hit attack.
Senior infielder Mo Kreitenberg drove in two runs and went one for two, while senior shortstop Sean Vogel had an RBI single for the winners, who have won 10 in a row and 16 of their last 17.
Junior outfielder Darren Hardy doubled, walked, scored twice and stole a base for Sage Hill. His steal of second with one out in the fifth was pivotal as Kreitenberg followed with a single to drive him home with what turned out to be the winning run.
Senior catcher Dusty Orrantia singled and, along with sophomore second baseman Michael Yorita, provided solid defense.
Wolfson was a key, Berglund said.
"He was dealing today," Berglund said of the 6-foot-4 right-hander, who struck out four, walked four and hit a batter. "[The Mustangs, who came in averaging almost 11 runs per game] swing hard; they swing for the fences. So, to keep them at bay for that long ..."
Not even a 26-minute delay awaiting the arrival of traffic-challenged umpires fazed Wolfson.
"Nothing really affects me," said Wolfson, who has attracted attention from college recruiters. "That's just my personality." .
Berglund said the six senior starters and three reserves are more than happy to trade their life jackets and paddles for a chance to stay alive in the postseason and potentially ride this surge to the championship game Friday at UC Riverside.
"The kids were kind of joking around, like 'Senior trip, schmenior trip," Berglund said. "I know it's important for them and obviously its a fun time. But these guys are passionate about going after a CIF title right now. They want to hit [Saturday] and practice Monday. That senior trip is going to have to wait."
CIF Division VI Quarterfinal Sage Hill 6, Vasquez 5 SCORE BY INNINGS
Vasquez 0 0 0 2 0 0 3 — 5 6 5 Sage Hill 0 0 0 5 1 0 X — 6 8 2 Murachanian, Lohman (6) and McGuire; Wolfson, Jimenez and Orrantia. W – Wolfson, 8-1. L – Murachanian, 10-3. Sv – Jimenez (2). 2B –Hardy (SH). Crannell (V).
CIF Playoffs Vasquez…5Sage Hill…6