ANAHEIM — Compared to the beginning of last season's CIF Southern Section Division 4 baseball playoffs, Estancia High made a nice improvement, playing in the first round this season as opposed to the wild-card round.
But unlike last season's team, which won, 5-3, at Anaheim High, the Eagles ran into a buzzsaw known as Savanna left-handed senior starting pitcher Ryan Hartman, in a 7-0 loss Thursday at Savanna.
Hartman (10-2) used his high fastball and sharp, breaking curve on his way to allowing just two hits in six innings, striking out six, as the Rebels won their ninth straight game. Savanna advanced to play in Tuesday's second-round game against Nogales, a 3-0 winner over St. Paul, with a coin flip today deciding who will host that game.
Estancia came close to scoring the game's first run right away, in the top of the first inning. Junior Tyler Rios walked, stole second, then Alex Trancoso struck out on a full count for the second out in the inning. Another junior, Steven Macias, hit a hard grounder to second, but Nick Murillo made a nice diving stab and threw him out to end the threat.
"I was hitting the corners, gave them nothing to hit," Hartman said. "I left the ball up a little, but my curve was on today."
Estancia (17-9), who came in as the second-place team from the Orange Coast League, allowed all seven runs with two outs. Meanwhile, the Eagles' offense hit hard balls to center field, third base and shortstop, but right into the awaiting gloves of Rebels (23-5).
"I thought we did a great job," Estancia first-year head coach Nate Goellrich said. "Our hits weren't falling through. No one really gave us much of a chance [coming into the regular season]. To be second in our league and come into the playoffs, I thought we competed well."
The game was really a 3-0 game most of the time, before Savanna poured it on. Catcher AJ Kennedy, a senior who committed to play at Cal State Fullerton this fall, smacked a two-run home run over the left-field fence in the bottom of the sixth inning, his sixth this season, for a 6-0 lead. Kennedy went three for four.
The difference in the game came early, with two outs in the bottom of the first inning. Andres Hernandez (5-3) allowed a double to Kennedy that landed just past the outstretched arm of Trancoso in deep center. Hernandez walked Hartman, then George Avina hit an RBI double on a 1-2 count, on a pitch up in the zone and along the outside corner. Jonah Lopez also fought through a two-strike count, hitting another hanging pitch up and away for a two-run double and a 3-0 lead.
"It was just fastballs I left up in the zone," said Hernandez, who allowed four earned runs and eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. "I came down and I couldn't locate. It was tough, I couldn't get the last out. That was pretty much the difference in the game."
Another Eagles' threat was stuffed in the top of the third. Matt Jarmacz hit an opposite-field single to right. But Hartman struck out the next two hitters, then Rios fisted a fastball to shallow center.
In the sixth, Levi Stillman singled, Rios walked with one out. But Trancoso struck out by swinging well ahead of a nasty changeup, then Macias flew out to right field, within 10 or 15 feet away from the fence.
"Dre pitched a great game," Goellrich said of Hernandez. "He left a couple pitches up, but we hung in there. We came into this season with five seniors, so we have a pretty bright future ahead of us."