Vetrovec leads way for Sailors

Before Shaun Vetrovec made his start on the mound for Newport Harbor High on Friday, he watched a couple of guys throw out the first pitch. One threw it pretty well and another bounced it to the plate.

These guys were a lot older than Vetrovec, who's 16. These guys were as old as his fastball. These 80-year-olds could've been his great grandfather.

Back in 1948, these guys played on the Sailors' Sunset League championship team. Vetrovec knew they were part of the school's history.

The program hasn't won a league title since these guys put on the uniform at Newport Harbor.

"Seeing how old they are, I hope that doesn't stay that way too long," Vetrovec said. "[Coach Patrick] Murphy told us that, and that's one of our goals, to change that. They don't have to be the only ones [to win a league title in baseball]."

Vetrovec is doing his part to keep the Sailors in contention for a league crown. He has not allowed an earned run in 22 straight innings.

Fifteen of those innings have come in his last two starts in league play. Those two starts for Vetrovec (3-1) have resulted in complete games.

The last time Vetrovec gave up an earned run was in the first inning he threw this season. He has been that dominant since Newport Harbor's season opener on Feb. 28, striking out 17, walking four and posting a 0.30 earned-run average.

Vetrovec is going the distance for Newport Harbor, which has split both of his starts in league. He could easily be 2-0 in league and his team 2-1 in league.

On the day the school honored the old-timers, Vetrovec looked like he did in his previous league start.

Through 5 2/3 innings, he threw 58 pitches against Huntington Beach. Murphy believed Vetrovec was on pace for another 85-pitch gem, like the one he delivered in his eight-inning shutout victory at Edison on March 15.

But two errors with two out in the top of the sixth hurt Vetrovec's chances of staying undefeated. The Oilers took the lead on a three-run home run and won, 3-1.

The Sailors were that close to moving into sole possession of third place in league. They are 1-2 and tied with the Oilers and Edison for the third spot, behind Fountain Valley and Marina, who share first at 3-0.

"The Sunset League is tough, but I think we have as good a chance as we've had in the past few years," Vetrovec said of the Sailors placing in the top three and clinching one of the league's automatic CIF Southern Section playoff berths. "I think we have a better team, better team chemistry. We're kind of expecting to win more, which is bringing us together. Last year, we didn't have as high expectations."

The Sailors are already at the halfway mark to their league win total from last season. It took them one game to get there.

Vetrovec was also the player who won Newport Harbor's first league game last year, coming in the third game. He doubled in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth to beat Los Alamitos, 7-6.

There's something special about Vetrovec and extra-inning affairs. He tends to come through in the clutch.

This year, the right-hander was locked in a pitcher's duel with Edison's Tyler Jones. They both pitched seven scoreless innings.

Vetrovec had opportunities to make a difference with the bat.

In his at-bats, he hit the ball hard each time. In the middle of the game, Vetrovec thought his shot in the gap in left-center field was going to turn into an extra-base hit, until the outfielder ran it down.

"I just wanted us to score, so I could hold it," Vetrovec said.

The Sailors finally struck in the top of the eighth. They scored five runs, one on a sacrifice fly by Vetrovec, the No. 3 hitter. He can hit, as he has a .448 average with nine runs batted in and three doubles.

Before he returned to the mound, Murphy had a few words for his ace.

"Get the shutout," said Murphy, who then saw his junior hit the first batter he faced.

That was the worst thing, Vetrovec said, he could do, allowing the leadoff batter to get on.

He knew he had a five-run lead, so he just tried to keep the ball down, hoping to induce a groundball. He did.

The grounder came right to him and Vetrovec threw it to second base for the start of a double play. The next batter lined out, and that was it, the Sailors won at Edison for the first time in Murphy's four years in charge.

"It was a dogfight … the whole game," said Vetrovec, who only allowed four hits and one walk, while striking out two. "It was just nice to finally get that first win out of the way in league and just kind of show the league that we're here to play this year."

And show those members from the Sailors' lone championship team something. Vetrovec said he hopes the Sailors can win a league title before the old-timers pass away.

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Shaun Vetrovec

Born: June 27, 1996

Hometown: Costa Mesa

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 180 pounds

Year: Junior

Sport: Baseball

Coach: Patrick Murphy

Favorite food: Spaghetti and meatballs

Favorite movie: "Forrest Gump"

Favorite athletic moment: "Getting the first [Sunset League] win against Edison."

Week in review: Vetrovec tossed a complete-game shutout in a Sunset League opener, allowing only four hits in eight innings and helping the Sailors win at Edison for the first time in Coach Patrick Murphy's four seasons with Newport Harbor.

david.carrillo@latimes.com

Twitter: @DCPenaloza

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