High School Baseball: Eagles suffer first loss

COSTA MESA — A team's first loss in a season can be telling. But even more revealing can be how the squad bounces back.

Estancia High's baseball team is forced to find out after falling, 7-0, to La Puente Nogales (4-0) in a Costa Mesa Division semifinal of the Newport Elks Tournament Wednesday.

Eagles Coach Nate Goellrich said his team displayed a lack of intensity and came out flat. That didn't help Estancia as it faced the Nobles' No. 1 pitcher Erik Gonzalez. The San Diego State-bound senior and returning Valle Vista League Player of the Year baffled the Eagles with a complete-game three-hit shutout that came with 10 strikeouts.

The Eagles (3-1) had few answers for Gonzalez (2-0), who kept Estancia batters off balance with a nice changeup.

Jackson Letterman, Eric Molina and Levi Stillman were the only Eagles to get a hit off Gonzalez.

Nogales Coach John Romano said there was no thought of attempting to save Gonzalez with the hopes of using him for the championship game on Friday. It was just Gonzalez's turn to pitch and he provided Romano his 599th career win.

The coach will go for 600 in the championship game at Segerstrom Friday at 3 p.m.

"My pitcher was OK today," said Romano, who is in his 36th year. "He's been better. He wasn't really sharp because he threw too many pitches, and had too many three-ball counts. He was good enough to win today, but he's been better. We'll take a win any way we can."

Romano stressed to his players the importance of hitting the ball against the Eagles. He thought Estancia had not allowed a run this season and he figured it would be tough to score any runs against the Eagles.

In fact Estancia had allowed just one run (a 4-1 victory over Orange) in its three wins. The Eagles had never trailed in the season until the second inning when Nogales jumped out to a 3-0 lead. The Nobles later scored four more runs in the fourth inning to put the game out of reach.

"I thought we could've competed a lot better today," Goellrich said. "Our pitching wasn't what it needed to be. Our defense, we were dropping routine fly balls. Hitting, we haven't been able to hit yet. Until that hitting comes around our pitching and defense needs to be there and it wasn't there today."

However, Goellrich said he challenged his players after the game.

"I told the guys after the game that we have to bounce back on Friday," said Goellrich, whose team plays at Lakewood Mayfair Friday at 3 p.m. "Now we have a test of failure. How do we handle it? We had an interesting offseason, we got beat around but we kept battling back. We've competed better than this. We just didn't have the intensity. We were humbled."

Goellrich and the Eagles are grateful that it is early in the season and they have time to improve.

Letterman, a catcher who threw out a runner in the fifth inning, believes the Eagles can rise to the occasion.

"I think we have a good team here," Letterman said. "It's going to be a challenge to bounce back but I think this is a good team that can go far."


Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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