CORONA DEL MAR — Clark Cashion fouled off four pitches before grounding a ball behind second base, reaching safely when the throw was off-line.
The Corona del Mar High senior catcher fought to lead off the sixth inning, and it paid off. He eventually scored the go-ahead run in Friday's 6-4 season-opening victory over San Juan Hills, when junior Aaron White came off the bench to smash a double to deep center.
Cashion and White had a plan at the plate to help the Sea Kings in their opening game of the Newport Elks Tournament's Foothill Division. The plan was instituted by the man the team calls "The Plan," CdM strength and hitting coach Evan Chalmers.
Chalmers used to plan to beat CdM when he was a coach at Newport Harbor, but now he has the Sea Kings raking.
"He always has a plan for our hitting and he puts it in the dugout," Cashion said. "We're all getting on 'the plan' and it's paying off. We played San Clemente two [weeks] ago [in winter ball] and we got a bunch of hits. Everyone's getting hits; it's not just the top of the order.
"… In baseball you can see [the pitcher's] tendencies before you even go up there. He's really taught us to kind of find those tendencies when you go up there, and how to put it in play."
The Sea Kings, who play at Patriot of Riverside at noon Saturday in another Foothill Division pool-play game, played confident throughout the game against their former Pacific Coast League foes. They took a lead in the bottom of the first as senior Brian Ford (two for three with two runs scored and a stolen base) led off with a double to right-center. Will Morrow singled him to third and he was brought home on a sacrifice fly by Brent Lawson.
Ford got in just two days of baseball practice after the CdM boys' soccer team lost in the CIF Southern Section Division III semifinals Tuesday. The midfielder on the pitch has signed with UC Davis for soccer.
"Brian Ford falls out of bed hitting doubles," CdM Coach John Emme said. "It's going to be a crying shame if baseball loses him completely. He is a phenomenal athlete."
CdM struck three more times in the third inning against Stallions senior ace Christian Stubbs, who had a 2.10 earned-run average last year and whom Emme called one of the top pitchers in Orange County. Ford, Morrow and Larson all crossed the plate, with Larson smacking an RBI double and Cashion contributing a sacrifice fly.
Sea Kings starter Eric Morris pitched five innings, giving up two earned runs on six hits. Morris walked none and struck out three, leaving with a 4-3 lead. But San Juan Hills caught up in the sixth after an RBI double from senior Kyle Murray, who finished two for three with three RBIs. The Stallions looked like they might take the lead, but Anthony Leal's two-out smash to deep left was caught by Lawson just before the wall.
CdM immediately responded, with Cashion's big at-bat starting things off. After he was sacrificed to second by Andrew Machoskie, his fellow catcher White came up big and CdM had a 5-4 advantage. The Sea Kings scored their last run on senior Mitch Gardner's single to right.
The starting lineup featured seven seniors in the opener, and Cashion said the CdM squad is deep as well.
"You saw that today," he said. "It's obviously the start of a long season, but I feel really confident about how the season is going to go."
CdM senior Andrew McCormack got the win in relief, pitching two innings and giving up an earned run on two hits, while striking out three. San Juan Hills did threaten with two outs in the seventh, as Cody Schmitz and Ryan Crowe both walked.
The go-ahead run came to the plate in Sam Robison, but McCormack induced a swinging strikeout to end the threat and the game.
The defense also played well, committing just one error after Emme said the Sea Kings struggled in that area last season. Cashion caught a runner stealing second in the third inning after firing to Cort Hastings, and Ford made a sliding catch in shallow center in the fifth.
Getting a win in the season opener sounded like a good plan to Emme.
"We've been playing a bunch of winter league games and it's really come together," Emme said. "I really anticipated our guys hitting the ground running, and we did … We're playing really good baseball, so we just want to keep going and see if we can have some good momentum getting into league. It's a great group of kids. It really is."
Newport Elks Tournament
Corona del Mar 6, San Juan Hills 4
SCORE BY INNINGS
SJH 001 201 0 – 4 8 3
CdM 103 002 x – 6 7 1
Stubbs, Cleveland (6) and Leal; Morris, McCormack (6) and Cashion. W – McCormack, 1-0. L – Stubbs, 0-1. 2B – Ford (CdM), Lawson (CdM), White (CdM), Murray (SJH). HR – Chavez (SJH).