CORONA DEL MAR — In eight days, the Corona del Mar High baseball team has gone from first to third in the Pacific Coast League.
The Sea Kings' offense has disappeared during the stretch. The result is three straight losses.
The Sea Kings dropped their latest at home to Northwood, 4-3, on Friday. Playing in the friendly hitting ballpark usually bodes well for CdM.
This time, it hurt the hosts.
"We had a bad approach at the plate all day long," CdM Coach John Emme said. "[The Timberwolves] decided that they were going to go stand on the warning track and we decided we were going to try to hit home runs through the wind. We told them before the game, 'Right-center is the only place where the ball is going to carry.' I can't count the number of F-7 [outs we had] all day long.
"If the kids refuse to adjust at the plate, we're going to lose some ballgames."
The Sea Kings (9-5, 4-3 in league) lost a second straight one-run game to the Timberwolves this week.
Northwood (7-5, 5-2) is now in second place, behind Beckman, which is undefeated in league. The coach of the Patriots attended Friday's game, and now Kevin Lavalle only has to worry about the Timberwolves, who have reeled five straight league wins
Northwood is back in the league title race and it can credit pitcher Steven Whisler. The junior was the second Timberwolves' starter to go the distance against CdM in four days and prevail.
Whisler is not going to overpower batters, but he records outs. The right-hander only gave up three runs and five hits, none for extra bases, to improve to 3-2.
Whisler worked for his third complete game in league. He had the Sea Kings' top of the order up in the bottom of the seventh inning.
After getting the first two batters he faced out, Whisler got into trouble. He had a 4-2 lead, but then walked Brent Lawson. Clark Cashion and Josh Harrison singled in back-to-back at-bats, Harrison bringing Lawson home to cut the deficit to one.
Cashion and Harrison each kept the ball on the ground, which helped the two get their second hits of the day and give CdM a chance to extend the game into extra innings or win it in walk-off fashion.
None of the two happened. Like many of the batters, Whisler got Andrew McCormack to fly out to right field, putting an end to any CdM comeback.
At no time was Northwood Coach Rob Stuart worried about Whisler. He stuck with him after asking him a simple question.
"What do you want to do?" Stuart said. "If the response is, 'Don't take me out,' we don't take [the pitcher] out. It was his game to win and it was nice to see him get that clutch win for us."
Northwood has made the plays late to knock off CdM.
Stuart said the Timberwolves have been fortunate. They rallied with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to defeat CdM, 3-2, on Tuesday.
This time, Northwood took a two-run lead into the seventh, thanks to a two-out, two-run home run by Alex King in the fifth. King pulled starter Eric Morris' first offering over the right-field fence to put the Timberwolves ahead, 4-2.
Emme said Morris (2-2), who allowed three earned runs and four hits, pitched well enough in his five-inning stint to pick up a victory. An error in the fourth, which allowed Northwood to score its first run of the game, and the Sea Kings swinging for the fences, did not help Morris' cause.
"We didn't challenge their defense much at all," said Emme, whose team has manufactured just five runs during the three-game skid.
"We can tell them how to win. We can put them in a position to win. Unless they are willing to make the adjustment and hit line drives and groundballs, then this is how every team is going to play us and we're going to struggle."
Pacific Coast League
Northwood 4, Corona del Mar 3
SCORE BY INNINGS
Northwood 000 130 0 – 4 4 2
CdM 002 000 1 – 3 5 2
Whisler and Mallek; Morris, Salam (6) and Cashion. W – Whisler, 3-2. L – Morris, 2-2. HR – King (NW).