COSTA MESA — Ninety feet is how far the Estancia High baseball team was from tying the game in the bottom of the seventh inning. The go-ahead run was leaning off first base.
The players knew what was at stake at home against Segerstrom on Friday, the Costa Mesa Division title of the Newport Elks Tournament. If those two runners score, the Eagles win their first Newport Elks Tournament crown in the program's history.
The players had no idea they could make history, because Estancia Coach Nate Goellrich said he doesn't bring up that sort of stuff.
He didn't have to when it was over. The Jaguars defended a first-and-third situation perfectly to secure a 3-2 win.
Coach Erasmo Ramirez said he was glad he worked on similar scenarios with his team for three days before the tournament began. The Jaguars didn't panic when it was a live situation with the game on the line.
Goellrich hoped they would.
With two outs and two strikes on the No. 9 hitter, Goellrich called for a running play. The runner took off for second base, hoping to catch the Jaguars sleeping on defense and force them into a miscue.
Neither of the two happened.
Starter Matt Martinez threw the ball to second. The runner retreated to first, only to be tagged out from behind. The runner on third never attempted to go home during the run down at first, and that was by design.
The runner at third stayed motionless, as did the rest of his teammates.
The Eagles couldn't believe their late-inning rally ended. They came so close to claiming the championship.
"We were waiting for one more throw," said Goellrich, who knew his team was in trouble when the infielder held onto the ball and chased after the runner.
The Jaguars soon rushed each other to celebrate going 5-0 in the tournament. Estancia was trying to close out the tournament with that record.
Three baserunning mistakes hurt the Eagles (4-1), as did an error with two outs in the fifth inning.
The error allowed the Jaguars to break a 1-1 tie in the fifth. They appeared to be on their way to loading the bases with two outs with an infield single by Anthony Lopez.
Shortstop Tyler Rios fielded the slow grounder, before faking the throw to first and firing to third to get the runner leaning. The throw went wide, allowing Segerstrom to bring home two runs, the second because a runner is awarded two bases when the ball goes out of play.
The Jaguars led, 3-1, and were back on top. That seemed enough run support for Martinez to improve to 2-0.
The right-hander dealt for seven innings, slowing down the Eagles' bats. He only gave up three hits, only once did Estancia tag him for an extra-base hit.
Brodie Pearce delivered the double down the left-field line during the Eagles' seventh-inning comeback attempt. The Eagles had runners in scoring position with no outs.
Andres Hernandez (1-1), who started and went five innings, tried to get off the hook for the loss. He drove in a run with a sacrifice fly to make it a one-run game.
With the bottom of the order up next, Martinez went back to work.
He struck out the next batter for his second strikeout. He fell behind Jackson Letterman and walked him.
The next hitter, the Eagles' last, wasn't so fortunate. Martinez jumped ahead, and with a 1-2 count, Estancia ordered the runner at first to go before the next pitch.
"The pitcher had been throwing some great two-strike pitches all game, so let's see if we can get a mistake out of him, a balk, or a thrown ball away, and get a run there and put the winning run in scoring position," Goellrich said.
"Just one loss doesn't take away from everything we've done for two weeks. We just need to rest up for a weekend and get after it next week and get ready for [the Orange Coast League opener on March 16]."
The Eagles open at Laguna Beach, which won the league title last season.
Keep in mind, Segerstrom beat the Breakers, 12-1, on Wednesday to reach the final.
"Different types of teams," Ramirez said of the Eagles and Breakers. "Laguna … relies a little bit more on offensive power. They're No. 2 to No. 5 hitters don't get cheated with their swings. They're out there to cause some damage. [Goellrich] plays small ball, very similar to what we like to run."
Newport Elks Tournament
Costa Mesa Division
Segerstrom 3, Estancia 2
SCORE BY INNING
Segerstrom 100 020 0 – 3 10 4
Estancia 000 100 1 – 2 3 3
Martinez and A. Rodriguez; Hernandez, Stillman (6) and Pearce. W – Martinez, 2-0. L – Hernandez, 1-1. 2B – Pearce (E).