The fashion in which the Sage Hill School baseball team walked off the field Friday wasn't pretty.
Nevertheless, the host school will take the result, a 10-9 walk-off win against Saddleback Valley Christian.
"I couldn't believe it," Sage Hill Coach Dominic Campeau said of watching his team rally for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning, two errors leading to the first and last runs. "If you're going to play ugly, and you get the win, it's always a positive. It's not the effort. Our guys play hard. It's just the fact that we didn't play well. We played sloppy.
"It's like nobody wanted to win this game."
The visitors walked four batters, committed two errors and hit one batter, all in the bottom of the seventh, allowing Sage Hill to steal the nonleague game.
The three times Sage Hill (4-1) put the ball in play, Saddleback Valley Christian's infield couldn't catch the ball, turn a double play, or field a routine grounder in the seventh. The last miscue cost the Warriors (1-2) any chance of at least sending the game into extra innings.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Conner Bock's groundball to the second baseman was misplayed. Bock hustled up the first-base line and beat the throw. The game-winning run crossed the plate and the Lightning rushed the field, in Bock's direction.
Bock, who went two for five with a double, made contact and the defense failed to make the play. The sophomore made up for his earlier work on the mound.
"We have faith in him. He has good stuff. He's just got trouble with his location right now," Campeau said of Bock, who started and gave up five earned runs, walked six, hit one, struck out one, and allowed one hit. "[The walks] put us in [a 5-1] hole a little bit early, but then our defense didn't help us out either. We messed up a lot on defense [with four errors].
"At the end, [the Warriors] were trying to win it all with their horse [Caleb Ward] and he ran out of steam. Then they had to deal with the same situation [we dealt with earlier]."
Each of the team's left-handed pitchers struggled finding the strike zone, Bock at the start and Ward at the end. Ward, who came in relief of starter Rob Hill in the fifth, couldn't shut the door on the Lightning. In 2 2/3 innings, he walked five, hit two, and allowed four earned runs and three hits.
Adam Ellingson saved the Lightning. And he's used to doing that, on the soccer field as the goalkeeper for the Lightning. Ellingson, a couple of weeks removed from the boys' soccer season, kept Sage Hill in the game.
The senior made Saddleback Valley Christian earn its way on during his five-inning stint. He threw strikes, only walked one, and gave up four runs (two earned) and nine hits. Ellingson earned his first victory of the season. He also went two for four with two runs batted in and a walk.
"He stepped in and he really battled," said Campeau, who has to rely on multi-sport athletes like Ellingson. "In a small division like ours, we have a lot of kids who play other sports. You don't really know what kind of team you have. Usually it takes a good month before you find out really what your team is all about."
Campeau, in his first season at the helm of the Lightning, likes what he has in Bock and junior Parker Reposa, who went two for two with two RBIs and a double, and he led off the seventh with a walk.
Two of Sage Hill's runs in the seventh came after Ward plunked Kellen Ochi and walked Ellingson with the bases loaded. In a jam, Coach Richard Mercado pulled Ward (0-1), who had walked, hit, walked and walked the last four batters he faced.
Mercado went with Mark Audet, hoping to go into extra innings. The defense let Saddleback Valley Christian down and it lost to its second Academy League opponent in 11 days. St. Margaret's, ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Division 6 poll, beat the Warriors, 20-0. The one against Sage Hill was winnable.
"That's a game you want to win. That's a game you have to win," said Mercado, whose team saw Elijah Bratton and Noah Dettman each go two for four with two RBIs. "My hats off to [the Lightning]. They competed until the last pitch. They never gave up. Every time we scored runs they came back."
Sage Hill 10, Saddleback Valley Christian 9
Saddleback 051 011 1 — 9 10 3
Sage Hill 112 110 4 — 10 9 4
R. Hill, Ward (5), Audet (7) and Lloyd; Bock, Ellingson (3) and Super. W - Ellingson, 1-0. L - Ward, 0-1. 2B - Bock (SH), Reposa (SH)..