HUNTINGTON BEACH — There was plenty riding on yet another important Sunset League baseball game when rivals Marina and Huntington Beach hooked up on Friday. At stake was sole possession of first place, a spot both teams eyed keenly heading into the showdown. The game itself, played before a big, boisterous crowd at Huntington, didn't disappoint.
Marina took over the league's top spot for the second time in a week by scoring a 5-3 victory over the Oilers, the fourth-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1. The outcome put the Vikings at 4-1 in league while the Oilers fell to 3-2.
With the early league lead on the line a week ago, Marina went to Fountain Valley and pulled out a 2-0 win over the Barons on March 23. The Vikings suffered a 5-4 home loss on Wednesday to Edison which put a big price tag on Friday's game.
"It's huge," Marina Coach Bob Marshall said of the win. "This is our arch-rival. Huntington is a great team, highly-ranked and is solid, from top to bottom. That's the best Huntington Beach team that I've seen in a long time. It was a great atmosphere out here today and both teams gave it their all."
Marina (7-3 overall) used the long ball early on to establish control. The Vikings also dodged several scoring threats by the Oilers who stranded seven on base, including a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the third inning and runners at second and third base in the sixth, over the final five innings.
"This is a tough one. We beat ourselves," Huntington Coach Benji Medure said. "Credit Marina for hitting the long ball, but we missed our pitch locations, missed signs and couldn't turn a double play that cost us a run. Those things add up. They certainly did today.
"This game had everything, awesome energy, intensity ... typical of a rivalry game. At least we get them two more times late in the season."
Senior Keegan Reeser gave Marina the lead for good in the top of the second with a solo home run to left field that put the Vikings in front, 2-1. It would be the first of three solo homers for the Vikings on the day.
In the top of the third, junior Jake Bauers took the first pitch offered and sent it over the center-field fence, a shot of about 380 feet that took the lead to 3-1. An out later, sophomore Landon Marshall drilled a shot over the fence in left field to make it 4-1.
Through three innings, the Vikings had scored four runs off Huntington starter Christian Abe (4-1) who brought a 15-scoreless innings streak into the game.
"We really haven't been hitting for power all year, but we're been getting better," Bob Marshall said. "One thing we've needed to work on, is learning how to stay on the ball better, and we've been doing that lately.
"Keegan's homer kind of energized us, although the kids were already pumped for this game."
Huntington (10-2 overall) was able to get a run back in the bottom of the third. Senior Mario Gross was hit by a pitch with two out and the bases loaded which forced home sophomore Jesse Kuet who had singled. Marina starter Austin Olivas still faced bases loaded with two out but he got Ryan West to fly out to center field to end the inning.
The Oilers pushed another run across in the bottom of the fifth. A one-out single by junior Jake Caron was followed by a double to the corner in left field by senior Brett Urabe that put runners at second and third. Gross then grounded out to shortstop, but Caron scored on the play to bring Huntington to within 4-3. Urabe moved to third on Caron's groundout, but was stranded when West grounded out to shortstop.
Marina was able to go up, 5-3, in the top of the sixth with a two-out rally. Junior Jake Arledge sent a grounder that traveled just inside the third base line and deep into left field. Reeser, stationed at second, hustled around to score to give the Vikings a two-run cushion. Huntington threatened again in the bottom of the sixth when senior LJ Brewster drew a one-out walk. With two out, sophomore Jesse Kuet sent a shot off the fence in left field for a double that put Brewster at third. Olivas again was able to get out of the jam by getting Adam Daymude to fly out to center field.
The Oilers had one more shot in the bottom of the seventh. Facing Vikings sophomore closer James Myers, Urabe walked and reached third with two out but Myers got West to ground out to second base to end the game.
"Like I said last week after we beat Fountain Valley, this league is a dog fight," Marshall said. "It's great to get this one, but there are plenty more games to play."
Marina takes a break from Sunset League play in the coming week. The Vikings start play on Saturday at the OC Nissan Tournament. They play host to Trabuco Hills at 11 a.m. They also play tournament games on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The Vikings return to league play with a pair of 1 p.m. games against Los Alamitos on April 10 (home) and April 11 (at Los Al).
Huntington plays host to Fountain Valley in a 3:15 p.m. league game Tuesday.