High School Baseball: Breakers perfect in Lions tourney

Mike Bair told his Laguna Beach High baseball team if it went 5-0 at the Anaheim Lions Tournament, then he'd give his squad some time off over the final days of spring break.

The Breakers met that challenge, and Bair kept his promise.

Laguna completed a 5-0 run through the tournament, which wrapped up Wednesday, by holding off San Juan Hills, 3-2, at Brookhurst Park in Anaheim.

The tournament drew 72 teams from across the nation. Several teams went 4-0 through the first three days of the event, and teams were positioned in final games Wednesday by virtue of runs each allowed in the tournament.

Laguna ranked third in that department, having given up eight runs in its first four games. San Juan Hills was next at No. 4. The Stallions-Breakers meeting Wednesday was dubbed the third-place game.

Villa Park didn't a allow a run through its first four tourney games, to finish at No. 1. The Spartans faced No. 2 Desert Christian for the title on Wednesday and lost to the Knights, 5-4.

With the victory, Laguna pushed its win streak to 11 games. The Breakers' last loss came on March 12 in the first game of a nonleague doubleheader against the same San Juan Hills team it defeated on Wednesday.

The streak started with a 3-1 win over the Stallions in the final game of that doubleheader.

Laguna, which went into spring break ranked No. 9 in CIF Southern Section Division 4, is now 15-2 overall.

"It was a huge win, a nail-biter," Bair said.

Laguna took a 3-0 lead through three innings, thanks to a sacrifice RBI by Adam Rodner in the second inning, and a two-run double in the third by Steven Harrison. The Stallions came back to score single runs in both the fourth and sixth innings, and threatened again by putting runners on base in the top of the seventh.

Jackson Rees, who threw a complete game, was able to keep the Stallions from scoring and closed out the win.

"He walked five guys, which is unusual, but he was able to throw his curveball for strikes, place his fastball, and had clutch strikeouts when we needed them," Bair said. "He was able to close the door on them there at the end."

Rees, who allowed seven hits, is undefeated at 6-0.

"We played solid defense behind Jackson," Bair said. "We only made one error and that came early in the game, and it didn't result in any runs scored.

"We also had timely hits by Adam [Rodner] and Steven [Harrison]. I still feel, though, that our best offense is still ahead of us. We have great hitters in our lineup but we haven't been hitting to our potential."

Laguna's tournament run began Saturday. The Breakers took on Troy in their first game, and scored an 8-4 win over the Warriors at Amerige Park in Fullerton. Junior pitcher Grant Wilhelm struck out 10 in six innings to register the win. Junior Richie Nunis went two for three with an RBI to lead Laguna's seven-hit attack. Rees had a hit and drove in two runs and Rodner and Robbie McInerny both had a hit and an RBI.

It was the second win against Troy this season for the Breakers who previously defeated the Warriors, 5-4, on March 4 at the Newport Elks Tournament.

Laguna played two games on Saturday and followed the Troy triumph with a 3-1 win over Lynwood Firebaugh at Servite High. Senior Larry Stewart took the win. He gave up just two hits and struck out seven in five innings of work.

The tournament continued Monday and the Breakers took a 2-1 decision from host Sonora, the seventh-ranked team in Division 4. Senior Cole Millerd pitched a complete game for his first win, and Nunis hit a double and triple and drove in two runs.

Senior Kurt Rebone went the distance Tuesday for Laguna, which was a 4-2 winner over visiting Capistrano Valley Christian, ranked No. 7 in Division 6. Rebone struck out seven and on offense, Rodner went two for three with an RBI and run scored.

"We have been playing unselfish baseball," Bair said. "Our pitching has been our bright spot but it's our solid defense and timely hitting that is getting us wins."

Two days before the tournament opened, the Breakers completed a 5-0 record in the first round of Orange Coast League play on March 28 by whipping host Costa Mesa, 15-0, for their most lopsided win of the year.

Rees didn't allow a hit, struck out five and walked three, for the win. Senior Cameron Hall allowed only one hit and a walk, and struck out six, in relief. Leadoff hitter Preston GrandPre went four for five with an RBI and Rodner went three for four with a double and two RBIs.

Laguna returns to action next week and will finish out its Orange Coast League schedule over the next month starting with a 3:15 p.m. game Tuesday at home against Estancia. Bair has been pleased with the way his team has continued to progress since the start of the season a little more than a month ago.

"We execute pitches, play excellent defense, fight for 90 feet, and have been getting the timely hits we need," he said. "It has been fun to see this team have a good first half of the season.

"We are a tight unit fighting for each other every game and it has produced a nice first half of the season. Our mantra has been to finish. I expect this team to keep improving and finish better than how we have started."

While the Laguna offense has been highly productive in its first 17 games — the Breakers have scored five or more runs eight times, and four times have scored 10 more runs in a game — its pitching staff has been stellar.

In addition to Rees being 6-0, Rebone is 5-0, Stewart 2-0, and Millerd (1-0) and Wilhelm (1-2) both have a win under their belts.

"We take tremendous pride in our pitching," Bair said. "It has been the major reason of our early success."

Yes, the first portion of the season has been a success but Bair knows what his team must now do. It all starts next week with the final two games of a three-game series with Estancia.

The Breakers shut out the Eagles in their series opener on March 19.

"Finish, finish, finish," he said. "We talk about finishing plays, finishing innings, finishing games on a daily basis. We plan to finish the season stronger than how we started by improving in all areas of our game and believing in each other."

Bair said that Rebone will draw the starting assignment Tuesday against Estancia. The senior one-hit the Eagles in Laguna's 8-0 win at Estancia two weeks ago.

For now, though, the Breakers, by virtue of their 5-0 streak at the Lions Tournament, get to enjoy a few days off. It's a short rest, then it's back to work.

"We'll get back after it on Monday," Bair said. "We played well in the tournament, and the kids deserve a few days off."

Remaining schedule

Tuesday: Estancia, 3:15 p.m.

April 12: at Estancia, 3:15 p.m.

April 16: at Saddleback, 3:15 p.m.

April 19: Saddleback, 3:15 p.m.

April 23: vs. Calvary Chapel, 3:15 p.m. (at Vanguard University)

April 26: Calvary Chapel, 3:15 p.m.

April 30: at Godinez, 3:15 p.m.

May 3: Godinez, 3:15 p.m.

May 7: Costa Mesa, 3:15 p.m.

Mary 9: at Costa Mesa, 3:15 p.m.


Twitter: @MikeSciacca

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World