PLACENTIA — The Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. Mustang All-Star team played close to four hours Monday, first under the sun and then under the lights.
The Pony Mustang-9 Southern California Central Region Sectional championship took that long to decide. The time on the field might have been longer had the two games against Irvine A gone the distance.
Newport Harbor needed to win just once to claim the crown. Irvine A had to beat Newport Harbor twice to win.
The second of the two scenarios happened and it was not close at Placentia Champions Sports Complex.
Each game Irvine A won was called after the fifth inning due to the 10-run mercy rule. Irvine A took the first game, 16-6, and capped off the sweep with a 14-4 victory.
Two days after Newport Harbor beat Irvine A to reach the title game, it saw Irvine A put on a hitting clinic. The only inning Irvine A did not score a run was in the first inning of Game 1. In the rest of the nine innings, Irvine A exploded for 30 runs.
"Irvine just made plays," said Newport Harbor Coach Lamar Jefferson, whose team allowed only 11 runs in the tournament's first three games.
"It's frustrating, especially having a historic moment in terms of having the opportunity to be a sectional champ, being from Newport Beach. But you take the good with the bad and learn from it."
Newport Harbor has something to look forward to after its runner-up finish. Next is the Super Regional, which Newport Harbor qualified for after advancing to the sectional championship game.
The five-day tournament gets underway on Saturday in Los Alamitos. Jefferson believes Newport Harbor will see Irvine A again. "We know we can beat them," Jefferson said. "We didn't play our best baseball in these two games. That's the good news."
Things began well for Newport Harbor in the opening game. Starting pitcher John Olmstead retired the side in order in the first inning.
The offense gave Olmstead run support in the bottom half on the inning. AJ Stefano drove in Ethan Barnes with a triple toward the gap in left-center field. Newport Harbor went ahead, 3-0, before Irvine A's next at-bat.
Irvine A responded in a monster way, scoring twice in the second and three times in the third before putting up a big seven in the fourth, and four in the fifth.
After five innings, the umpires called the game. They took a half hour break, as did the two clubs.
As soon as Game 2 began, Irvine A did not lose any momentum. The team scored twice in the top of the first.
NHBA immediately matched the total after back-to-back singles by Stefano and Olmstead in their first at-bat. Stefano came around and scored on a passed ball and Olmstead on a sacrifice fly by Hayden Schott.
The problem was Irvine A's attack continued. The runs piled up and Irvine A was determined to cut the game short by an inning again.
Leonard Memon shut down Newport Harbor during three innings in relief.
"Couldn't get our bats going," said Jefferson, who knew it wasn't because of lack of time.