ANAHEIM — Playing a high school baseball game under the lights is rare.
But that was the situation for Estancia Wednesday night and it shined in the unlikeliest of places.
The Eagles traveled to Anaheim and accomplished something they had not done in 19 years. The postseason drought is over for Estancia after it prevailed, 5-3, in a CIF Southern Section Division IV wild-card game at La Palma Park.
The last time the Eagles won in the playoffs, their current players were not even born. It took a new generation for Estancia to come out on top in the postseason.
The spotlight belongs to the players and coaching staff. Coach Matt Sorensen wore the biggest smile after leading the Eagles to the playoffs for the second straight season.
This is his first four-year class, and in the last two years, Estancia claimed an Orange Coast League title last season and now a playoff game.
Sorensen has his club back in the first round, where it started the postseason last year after the program won a league crown for the first time since 1991. The reward for the Eagles (14-12) is a game at defending champion Palm Desert (24-4).
One player yelled out, "Party!" There was not much time for Estancia to celebrate the victory.
The Eagles hit the road Thursday and plan to log 115 miles to top-seeded Palm Desert, more mileage this time around.
The distance to Anaheim was 19 miles. The number represented the same number of years since the Eagles' last playoff victory.
Helping Estancia get over the postseason hump were gifts from the Colonists (13-15) in the first inning. The first three batters reached base after Anaheim committed errors on routine plays.
Four errors by Anaheim allowed the Eagles to jump ahead, 4-0. Steven Macias and Brodie Pearce each knocked in a run with singles to right field.
That was all the run support Estancia needed to advance to the next round. It got dicey for the Eagles in the bottom of the third, sixth and seventh innings.
Andres Hernandez was there each time, getting Estancia out of danger. The junior threw five innings in relief, earning the win after allowing no earned runs, giving up just two hits and striking out four.
"He was the perfect kid for that situation," Sorensen said of Hernandez, who replaced starter Tyler De la Peña in the third inning.
Hernandez was cool in tough spots.
In the Colonists' final at-bat, Hernandez got the first out. Then he proceeded to give up consecutive singles to left field.
With the tying runs on base, Hernandez went right at Jose Rojas, Anaheim's No. 5 hitter. Rojas hit one hard to deep center, but Alex Trancoso got under the ball and made the catch.
Trancoso also helped Hernandez out in the third inning, when the Eagles got into trouble.
De la Peña gave up a leadoff single and then walked three straight batters. One run came across, and then Sorensen pulled De la Peña after he started the next batter with three balls.
Hernandez entered with the bases loaded. Working in a precarious spot, behind, 3-0, in the count, Hernandez walked in a run and the Colonists cut the deficit to 4-2.
Hernandez got out of the bases-loaded jam. He struck out the next batter, and then Trancoso made the defensive play of the game.
With one out, Anaheim thought Manny Tafoya's sacrifice fly to center would bring in a run from third. The runner at third base tagged up, but before he stepped on home plate, Trancoso threw out a runner trying to get back to second base and it was the third out.
Instead of trailing by one, Anaheim was still down two. The blunder was one of many for the Colonists, who committed seven errors.
The two teams had an extra day to prepare because of Tuesday's rainout. It did not help the hosts.
The final error by Anaheim came with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, making it possible for the Eagles to score for the first time since the first inning. Hernandez hit a grounder to the shortstop, who could have turned in an inning-ending double play.
He failed to glove the ball and Tyler Rios scored to give Estancia an insurance run.
"It's rewarding to see how far they've come," Sorensen said. "They don't know any other [head coach since they have been at Estancia].
"I've had a lot of help [in turning around the program]. We're excited about the opportunity [against Palm Desert]. This is valuable experience."
CIF Southern Section Division IV playoffs
Estancia 5, Anaheim 3
SCORE BY INNING
Est 400 000 1 — 5 5 3
Ana 002 001 0 — 3 5 7
De la Peña, Hernandez (3) and Pearce. Corral and Madrid. W – Hernandez. L – Corral.