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Baseball: Laguna turns to playoffs

What the Laguna Beach High baseball team has accomplished to date this season, is nothing short of impressive. A school-record win streak, a league championship, and top-three final ranking, have made for a memorable season.

For all the Breakers have accomplished so far, it now boils down to a one-game season.

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And, that’s they way they like it.

Laguna begins the final stretch of its 2013 season Friday. At 3:15 p.m. that day, the Breakers play host to Victor Valley in a first-round game of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs. The winner moves on to a second-round game Tuesday.

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“We’re only focused on Victor Valley,” Laguna Coach Mike Bair said. “Our guys have done a great job of taking the season one game at a time. We won’t change anything in regards to what we’ve been doing all season.

“One of our deals has been, is to beat the game, not the opponent. We’re looking forward to Friday.”

Laguna comes into the postseason riding a 21-game winning streak which has led to a 25-2 record. That finish has also garnered a No. 3 seed in the Division 4 tournament for the Breakers.

The top two seeds are No. 1 Westlake Village Oaks Christian and No. 2 Kaiser.

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“It’s nice to be 25-2, and be rewarded for a the regular season with a No. 3 seed,” Bair said. “The guys did a great job of putting themselves in the best possible position for the playoffs.”

“I think the key at this point, is to not change a thing. We have pitched well, hit well, and have played great defense. Those three things have gotten us to where we are.”

Thirteen Breakers carry at least a .324 or better batting average, and eight have 22 or more hits. As a team, the Breakers have hit a collective .363, and have a .449 on base average. Defensively, they hold an .873 fielding percentage.

Junior Preston GrandPre (.340) has a team-high 32 hits. Junior Richie Nunis (.408) who has 29 hits, has a team-best 24 RBIs.

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“Having quality at-bats has definitely been a big key for our success on offense, “Bair said. “We have worked hard and are conscious of our swings, and we have made pitchers work. We have been patiently aggressive, I’d say.”

Victor Valley, the No. 3 team from the Desert Sky League, advanced to Friday’s first-round game by knocking off Montclair (18-7, Mt. Baldy League No. 3), 7-3, in a wild-card game Tuesday. The Jackrabbits (14-16) had 10 hits in the game, led by sophomore Andy Pascual with two hits and three RBIs. Senior Gerardo Velazquez also had two hits and an RBI, a and junior Robert Garcia drove in two runs.

Pascual, a catcher, is one of the Roadrunners’ top offensive performers with a 289 average, 28 hits and 18 RBIs.

Laguna and Victor Valley met in the second round of the playoffs last year. The Breakers won that game, 5-4.

Bair said the starting nod will got to Jackson Rees. The senior right-hander is 10-0 and has a 0.78 ERA (54 innings pitched).

“Jackson’s had a great year,” Bair said. “He’s got three, quality pitches and has gotten better at placing the ball this year. He has a great fastball, curve and changeup. He’s gotten mentally tougher this year, too.

“With him on the mound, it also gives us our best offensive and defensive lineup.”

The Victor Valley-Laguna Beach winner advances to Tuesday’s second round to face the winner of Friday’s first-round game between Monrovia and La Sierra.

“We believe,” Bair said of his team’s mind-set heading into the postseason. “The guys believe in each other and have faith in the role that each has on the team. We have a goal in mind of making a great run in CIF.”

Laguna completed a 15-0 Orange Coast League championship season, and tied with the 2011 Laguna team for most league wins in a single season, when they polished off Costa Mesa, 18-0, in five innings on May 9. Senior Robbie McInerny (.409 avg.) went three for three with an RBI and two runs scored, senior Blake Hester went two for three with a home run, two RBIs, and two runs scored, junior Steven Harrison homered, and senior Cole Millerd went two for three with a double, two RBIs, a stolen base two runs scored, and also struck out four in two innings pitched.


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