IRVINE — Going into the last baseball game of the regular season on Thursday, Corona del Mar High knew it was back in the playoffs. The Sea Kings clinched a CIF Southern Section Division 3 berth two days earlier.
The Sea Kings wanted their return to the postseason after missing it last season to be at home in the first round.
Coach John Emme now expects CdM to start the playoffs next week on the road. His Sea Kings fell short of moving into a two-way tie for second place in the Pacific Coast League.
The team they were chasing, University, secured the league's second playoff berth with a 4-1 victory at home against the Sea Kings.
All CdM needed to do was prevail and it earns the league's No. 2 spot. The head-to-head tiebreaker belonged to the Sea Kings.
The Trojans (18-7, 10-5 in league) took care of business, avoiding losing to CdM (15-11, 8-7) for the second time in three days. University, ranked No. 2 in the Division 3 coaches' poll, sent out its ace, Jordan Scheftz.
The Sea Kings were the team that knocked University out of a first-place tie with defending champion Beckman by beating the Trojans, 9-5, on Tuesday.
With Scheftz on the mound, CdM wasn't about to share second with the Trojans.
"When he's on the mound, they're as good as anybody," said Emme of Scheftz, who improved to 9-2 after striking out seven and allowing four hits and one run in six innings.
The right-handed junior pitched five scoreless innings after the first inning.
Each side picked up a run in the first inning, CdM's Andrew McCormack singled in a run and University's Itai Reuveni doubled in a run.
The Trojans tried to bring home another run in the following inning. They got too greedy after Cort Hastings mishandled Kia Ho's grounder to shortstop. The runner moving to third was Cam Matin and he wasn't stopping.
Hastings never quit and recovered in time.
The senior retrieved the ball near the edge of the infield and fired to catcher Brent Lawson, who was waiting for Matin. The runner had no chance of touching home plate.
He didn't even attempt to slide in as Lawson tagged him out standing for the third out, making the call an easy one for the home-plate umpire.
The umpire and his counterpart missed a couple of calls in the third inning, each time inciting the visiting fans. Emme was livid as well.
When it appeared a pitch hit Lawson in the top of the third, the umpire ordered Lawson back to the batter's box. Lawson, looking confused halfway up the first-base line, tried to plead his case that the ball tagged him. He showed the umpire where the ball struck his uniform, pointing toward his left shoulder.
Someone in the Sea Kings' dugout even tried to help Lawson's case by saying, "Why would he lie? He's going to Yale."
Three pitches later, the future Ivy Leaguer went down swinging.
When CdM took the field in the bottom of the third, the leadoff batter, Cody Bohlman, got onboard via a walk. He moved to second base seconds after a pick-off move by starter Billy Macdonald (3-6).
McCormack caught the ball at first base, but the field umpire ruled that McCormack obstructed the runner, allowing Bohlman to take second base. Just as Bohlman reached the base, Emme came out of the dugout to argue the call.
"I don't know what was going on out here today," Emme said. "I asked the umpire before the game to look out for them. We've had them a couple of times have an infielder drop a knee to block a kid going into the bag, trying to get back, or sliding into third, which we had happen last game [against the Trojans]. So, I asked the umpires to look for it before the game. Apparently, that hurt his feelings, because then he called obstruction when there was none on us.
"That was one of the most ridiculous things I've seen out here in 15 years."
Two batters later, University broke a 1-1 tie on an error by CdM.
Another error by CdM, this time with the bases loaded in the fourth, broke the game open for University. Two runs came around to score after the right fielder dropped a pop fly, which would've been the third out.
The Sea Kings had chances to get back in the game in the fifth and sixth innings. They had runners on the corners in each inning.
Every time, Scheftz got out of trouble. When he left, University was three outs away from claiming second place in league.
Pacific Coast League
University 4, Corona del Mar 1
SCORE BY INNINGS
CdM 100 000 0 – 1 4 2
University 101 200 x – 4 7 2
Macdonald, Olson (6) and Lawson; Scheftz, Kai (7) and Matin. W – Scheftz, 9-2. L – Macdonald, 3-6. 2B – Reuveni (U), Heckendorn (CdM).