IRVINE — A fire truck pulled up to a gated community right next to the baseball field where Corona del Mar High was playing.
The Sea Kings sure needed help to stay alive in their final at-bat at Beckman Friday. The starting pitcher was still throwing heat in the seventh inning.
James Kaprielian put out the Sea Kings' hopes with his right arm. The major-league prospect struck out the three batters he faced swinging to complete what he started.
With the junior on the mound, the Patriots cannot lose, and they showed why in an 8-1 Pacific Coast League victory.
Kaprielian has never dropped a decision in his three years with the program. He keeps winning and so does Beckman in league, improving to 5-0 this year and extending their league win streak from last season to 20.
The Patriots (10-2), ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division III coaches' poll, took sole possession of first place. It was supposed to be a battle of two undefeated league teams, but defending champion Beckman came out swinging in the first inning.
The fourth-ranked Sea Kings (9-3, 4-1 in league) fell behind, 6-0, and could not fight back. That was not going to happen against Kaprielian. It was almost unfair the way he mixed in a changeup in between 89 mile-per-hour fastballs en route to striking out eight.
This was CdM's first chance to see Kaprielian (4-0) live this year. The Sea Kings missed him the last time these two programs met on March 12 in the Newport Elks Tournament Foothill Bracket title game at CdM. The Sea Kings pounded Beckman, 18-14, in the finale, producing four doubles, three home runs and one triple.
What a difference one pitcher makes.
Kaprielian allowed just five hits, none for extra bases, and he came close to shutting out a potent offense.
A throwing error allowed the Sea Kings' leadoff man in the fifth inning to reach first base safely. Michael Salam came around and scored on a groundball, but Kaprielian had more than a comfortable lead at 7-1.
Sure, Kaprielian lost his second league shutout bid, but he was more than OK with that. What mattered more was that the Patriots avenged their loss to CdM from three weeks ago.
"Everyone was swinging for the fence and just hitting the ball out," Kaprielian said of Beckman's game against CdM last month. "It was hard to watch because … you feel like you can make an impact for the team, but we got them back.
"I'd say for the most part since this was a league game, we all knew it was more important, and because of that fact, everyone came out a lot more fired up."
In their first chance to get back at CdM, the Patriots made it happen. They faced Eric Morris, one of the Sea Kings' top pitchers.
The right-hander was not his usual self, giving up three straight doubles to Ricky Navarro, Justin Hazard and Zack Rivera that resulted in two quick runs in the first inning.
Coach John Emme said Morris was recovering from walking pneumonia, and he did not help his cause by walking in two runs with the bases loaded in the first. Morris hit a batter and then walked another after five pitches.
In all, Morris, who suffered his first loss, walked two and plunked two before Emme pulled him after throwing 42 pitches in the first inning.
The pitches by Morris (2-1) were almost half of what Kaprielian threw in seven innings. He finished with 95 and said his arm felt good.
"I can probably go right now if I want to," said Kaprielian, who knows he has more work ahead of him and that Beckman and CdM will face each other again in league.
Next month, the Sea Kings and Patriots close out the regular season with back-to-back games. Kaprielian plans to throw down the stretch to help Beckman win a third straight league title.
No team has beaten Kaprielian yet, but he said he does not feel invincible.
"He's tough," Emme said of Kaprielian, who has not allowed an earned run in 14 innings of work in league. "But the beauty of this is we hope it will come down to the last week of the season."
Pacific Coast League
Beckman 8, Corona del Mar 1
SCORE BY INNINGS
CdM 000 010 0 1 — 1 5 3
Beck 601 001 x — 8 10 1
Morris, Salam (2), Cubeiro (6) and Cashion; Kaprielian and Hazard. W – Kaprielian, 4-0. L – Morris, 2-1. 2B – Hazard 2 (B), Navarro (B), Rivera (B).