Future is now for Newport's Vetrovec

Shaun Vetrovec wasn't sure what to do at Newport Harbor High last week.

Stay on first base or return to the batter's box?

It was late, the bottom of the ninth inning against Los Alamitos. The game-winning run was on second with one out.

After facing a couple of pitches, the home plate umpire told Vetrovec to take first base. Apparently, the Griffins put him on, not wanting to pitch to the clean-up hitter. He hurt them in the seventh, when he singled in the game-tying run to force extra innings.

Vetrovec listened to the umpire and ran to the bag, only to have to hustle back. Los Alamitos never signaled to the umpire that it wanted to walk Vetrovec.

Vetrovec needed a moment, not just to wait for someone to grab his batting gloves and bat from the dugout, but to adjust to what happened.

When he was ready, he stepped into the batter's box. One pitch is all he needed to see.

On that pitch, Vetrovec gave the Sailors something they have lacked for much of the season: timely hitting.

He delivered in the clutch. He doubled and drove in the game-winning run as Newport Harbor rallied for a 7-6 win.

Vetrovec and his teammates celebrated their first Sunset League triumph of the season. The sophomore, who went three for five with two runs batted in, was happy to be in the position to lift the Sailors.

The pitching coach, Armando Carrasco, told Vetrovec, "They should've walked you."

Vetrovec has turned into the Sailors' best hitter.

He went into this week leading the team in batting average (.400) and runs batted in (seven), and he shared the top spot in doubles (two) with three teammates.

Vetrovec has also become the team's No. 1 pitcher. He was going to be the No. 2 guy, behind Chase Kapana, a second-team all-league pick last season. But Coach Patrick Murphy said Kapana has been out a couple of weeks with soreness in his right throwing arm.

While the Sailors (3-8, 1-3 in league) haven't won much this season, Vetrovec has helped them compete. He's earned two of the team's three victories. When he's not pitching, he plays third base or first base.

The Sailors have been in practically every game this season, three one-run games, two two-run games and three three-run games. They have already produced a league victory, which took them until the end of last season to record.

Vetrovec was on that team last season, learning the ropes as a freshman. The Sailors finished in last place in league, going 2-12-1. Vetrovec doesn't see that happening a second time.

"We can compete with anybody in our league," said Vetrovec, who also kept the Sailors in a league game last week at Marina, allowing three runs in six innings of work.

Marina scored three runs in the fifth and the support held up for a 3-0 victory. Marina is 3-1 in league and shares first place with Huntington Beach, ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll.

Newport Harbor has seen all the teams in league, except Fountain Valley. The Sailors play host to the Barons on Friday at 3:15 p.m.

Vetrovec is looking forward to the matchup. These are the kind of games the Sailors must win to have any chance to return to the playoffs after staying home last season.

Vetrovec knows it won't be easy earning a postseason berth out of a tough league. But he likes the Sailors' chances under Murphy.

"We're getting better," Vetrovec said. "We're confident that we can surprise teams."

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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Shaun Vetrovec

Born: June 27, 1996

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 170 pounds

Sport: Baseball

Positions: Third base, pitcher and first base

Coach: Patrick Murphy

Favorite food: Spaghetti

Favorite movie: "Forrest Gump"

Favorite athletic moment: "Getting the game-tying hit and game-winning hit to beat Los Alamitos last week."

Week in review: Vetrovec singled in the game-tying run in the bottom of the seventh inning and doubled in the game-winning run in the ninth as the host Sailors rallied to beat Los Alamitos, 7-6, in an extra-inning Sunset League game. Vetrovec went three for five with two runs batted in.

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