CORONA DEL MAR — The deuces truly were wild on Newport Harbor High junior Brendan Mestrin.
There were two balls, two strikes, two outs and a 2-and-2 count. Mestrin, the second baseman who wears jersey No. 2 and bats second in the order, was trying to bring in teammate Max Gerard from second base.
Mestrin and the Sailors were down to their last strike in the top of the seventh inning. But Mestrin saw the fastball and did perhaps the logical thing, hitting a big two-bagger to tie the score.
Newport Harbor hung on against its rival Corona del Mar, winning, 5-4, to salvage a split of the Battle of the Bay doubleheader Tuesday afternoon at CdM.
The Sea Kings had taken the first game, 6-3, and were threatening to sweep before Mestrin's heroics.
"I knew I had to get him in somehow," Mestrin said. "I was putting a lot of pressure on myself but I just came through with two strikes on me."
The double to center tied the score at 3-3, but the Sailors weren't done. CdM walked cleanup hitter Matt Carpenter to load the bases. The next pitch also put a runner on, but this one wasn't intentional.
Newport Harbor junior Cory Kroeger was hit by the pitch in the mid-section, forcing in another run and giving the Sailors (3-4) the lead. They added an insurance run when Patrick Overstreet reached on an infield error.
Corona del Mar (5-2) scored in the bottom of the inning when Aaron White hit a lead-off single. He went to second on an error, to third on a wild pitch and was brought home on Josh Harrison's sacrifice fly. But the Sea Kings couldn't score again off Newport reliever Jordan Desguin, who got the win pitching two innings in relief.
It was a frustrating second game of the doubleheader for CdM, coming off winning the Newport Elks Tournament Foothill Bracket. The Sea Kings, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division III coaches' poll, got on the board on Andrew Machoskie's solo homer in the second inning. They had taken a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth on back-to-back solo home runs by Brian Ford and Will Morrow.
CdM also had chances to extend its lead in the sixth. With one out, Ford (three for four) and Morrow (two for three) both singled. They advanced into scoring position on a double-steal, but Desguin got the second out when the home-plate umpire ruled Brent Lawson hadn't quite held up his swing with two strikes.
CdM Coach John Emme disagreed. He disagreed more a play later, after Ford tried to steal home. It appeared Ford had his third stolen base of the game, but the umpire ruled Newport Harbor freshman catcher TK McWhertor tagged him in time, ending the inning.
"He was safe," Emme said after the game. "And the pitch before it, I don't know why [the home-plate umpire] goes and makes that call. All you've got to do is ask your partner."
Cort Hastings also had two hits for the hosts, who out-hit the Sailors, 12-4. But CdM left 10 runners on base, including at least one in every inning.
"We had some opportunities that we didn't cash in on, but it's good to know going into league that we're still swinging the bat very well," Emme said. "If you'd told me before the season that we'd be 5-2 and ranked in the top 10 heading into league, I would have said, 'That's fantastic. I'll take that.' "
CdM starting pitcher Michael Salam retired the first 10 batters he faced and didn't allow a hit through four innings. But Newport Harbor took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on freshman Shaun Vetrovec's RBI groundout and when Mestrin was also hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, forcing in a run.
The Sailors are young. In the second game they started just one senior in Guerin, and Coach Patrick Murphy pointed out that he had three freshmen in the game – McWhertor, Vetrovec and Blake Pender – at the end. But Murphy said his group is resilient.
"I couldn't be happier and prouder of our team, the way that they stuck with it," Murphy said. "When [CdM] did answer back with the two home runs, we could have easily kind of cowered down But we didn't. We stayed right with it and our kids came through."
Lawson hit a two-run homer in the first inning of Game 1, and CdM used RBI doubles from Morrow and Clark Cashion to take a 5-0 lead in the third inning. Newport Harbor answered with a fourth-inning solo home run by Carpenter, and Kroeger's RBI single drove in Jake Stowell, but the Sailors never got closer than two runs.
CdM senior Andrew McCormack got the win, pitching six innings and allowing two earned runs on eight hits. McCormack struck out five. Freshman Tyler Duncan retired the side in order in the seventh for his first save.
Both teams open league play Friday, with Corona del Mar playing host to Northwood and Newport Harbor at home against Marina.
Corona del Mar 6, Newport Harbor 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
NH 000 201 0 – 3 8 1
CdM 302 001 x – 6 10 2
Gerard and Guerin; McCormack, Duncan (7) and Cashion. W – McCormack, 2-1. L – Gerard, 0-3. S – Duncan (1). 2B – Ford (CdM), Morrow (CdM), Cashion (CdM), McCormack (CdM), Machoskie (CdM). HR – Carpenter (NH), Lawson (CdM).
Newport Harbor 5, Corona del Mar 4
SCORE BY INNINGS
NH 000 020 3 – 5 4 1
CdM 010 020 1 – 4 12 2
Kapana, Desguin (6) and McWhertor; Salam, Duncan (5), Hastings (7) and White. W – Desguin, 2-0. L – Duncan, 0-1. 2B – Mestrin (NH). HR – Machoskie (CdM), Ford (CdM), Morrow (CdM).