COSTA MESA — Coach Matt Sorensen said Estancia High’s only real chance to be the first Orange Coast League team to beat Laguna Beach was for starter Chris Paul to hit his pitch count and then leave the game.
Paul threw 112 pitches. He was not coming out Wednesday.
The right-hander wanted to be on the mound when the Breakers made history. And there he was in the bottom of the seventh, making the necessary pitches to get out of trouble on the road.
Just as Paul had done in the previous five innings, he left a runner in scoring position in the final inning to leave unscathed. The UC Santa Barbara-bound senior threw a complete-game shutout as Laguna Beach won, 2-0, and set a school record for wins in a season.
Seventeen victories is a lot sweeter than 16 to Paul and the Breakers.
“It’s awesome to be part of a team that sets a school record and sets the foundation for the future, and hopefully it starts a tradition,” Paul said.
Paul has the Breakers off to their best start in the program’s history. They are 17-2, 7-0 in league.
All that is missing is the league title, the program’s first in 48 years. With eight league games to go in the regular season, Coach Jeff Sears will remind you that there is a lot of baseball left.
Sears is not worried about the Breakers’ magic number to clinch the league crown. The only magic he cared about was the kind Paul displayed on the mound to improve to 5-1.
Paul sure made the Eagles’ bats disappear when they had runners in scoring position.
Defending league champion Estancia (8-9, 3-4) managed eight hits, seven more than the previous time it faced Paul in the league opener last month, when he went the distance. None of the hits against Paul proved to be timely.
The Eagles stranded a runner on second base in the seventh, runners on third and second base in the sixth, runners on second and first base in the fifth, a runner on third base in the fourth, a runner on second base in the third, and runners on second and first base in the second.
Of Paul’s four strikeouts, three came in the clutch with Estancia in business. He recorded the third out in the second, third and sixth innings by mowing down the batter.
“All the credit goes to him,” said Sorensen of Paul, who has struck out 16 and given up one run in two wins against Estancia this season. “We had our opportunities to make plays, to make something happen. More than us taking advantage of [the situation], he got himself out of it. He has an extra gear and he hit that gear.”
Paul had to turn it up in the sixth to help the Breakers defeat Estancia for the second time in as many days.
Andres Hernandez led off the inning with a single to left field.
Three batters later, Brodie Pearce singled to the same field for his second hit of the day. Sorensen decided to hold the runner at third base, instead of trying to cut the deficit to one.
The runner rounded the third-base bag and went a little too far toward home. He almost was the third out before he safely slid back into third base, where Sorensen said the umpire missed the call.
“We definitely caught a break,” said Sorensen, who had runners on third and second with two outs.
That is as far as the runners got.
Paul got out of the jam by striking out the next hitter. He fell behind, 3-0, on the count before firing three strikes.
Paul’s two-run single up the middle in the fifth inning produced the game’s only runs.
The Eagles failed to support starting pitcher Tyler De la Pena with any run production. Tyler Rios, who went two for four, tried to help the senior right-hander late.
Rios had the lone extra-base hit against Paul. He doubled in the gap in right-center field with two outs in the seventh.
The next batter Paul faced swung at the first pitch and popped up to end the game, allowing Laguna Beach to sweep the three-game series against Estancia.
“We couldn’t have asked for really anything better from him,” Sorensen said of De la Pena (2-3), who went the distance, allowing two runs and five hits, while striking out three and walking three. “It was either his best or his second-best outing of the season.”
It just was not good enough to top Paul’s performance.
Orange Coast League
Laguna Beach 2, Estancia 0
SCORE BY INNINGS
LB 000 020 0 – 2 5 1
Est 000 000 0 – 0 8 1
Paul and Peruzzi; De la Pena and Pearce. W – Paul, 5-1. L – De la Pena, 2-3. 2B – Rios (E).