With a new coach in line to lead a young squad, a playoff berth was the modest goal the Flintridge Prep baseball team had coming into the 2013 season.
As it became clear the Rebels would easily meet that mark, their intentions became bold.
"I just wanted to take it one step at a time and I thought making playoffs would have been a big improvement," said first-year Prep Coach Guillermo Gonzalez, whose team advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division VI semifinals with a 4-3 walk-off win over Crean Lutheran Friday, of his preseason aspirations. "It shows the fire they have to take it a step further.
"Once we won league, we saw our strength of schedule and we realized in this division anything can happen, our hopes got really high."
Flintridge Prep (18-8) will look to take a giant leap toward the ultimate prize of a CIF championship when it hosts top-seeded Desert Christian Academy (27-2) Tuesday. Thanks to a CIF coin flip, the Rebels will host the Conquerors, who defeated Webb, 10-1, Friday, at the Glendale Sports Complex at 3:15 p.m.
The winner will go on to face fourth-seeded Capistrano Valley Christian or Downey Calvary Chapel, which took third in the Delphic League, for the Division VI title at 4 p.m. Saturday at UC Riverside.
"The way we look at it, it's just another game, we've played teams in higher divisions," Gonzalez said. "Pitching and hitting-wise they may be a little more talented than us, but I know our guys can compete against them."
After what the Rebels did on their home field Friday, they'll be riding a wave of momentum Tuesday. Flintridge Prep overcame a 3-0 hole in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Crean Lutheran, which committed a pair of miscues in the final frame.
"Everything is clicking for us right now, especially after getting these last two wins by coming back," Prep catcher Daniel Arya said. "I think it's going to be a great game [against Desert Christian Academy]. We don't want to be anywhere else and it's better to keep playing than sitting on a couch."
Still, no matter what happens Tuesday, Flintridge Prep has already enjoyed historic success this season by winning its first playoff game in 14 years and first league title in 16 seasons. It doesn't mean the young squad, which only has three seniors, is content.
"We have a chance to get to the championship game. We've won [the Prep League] and the guys keep believing in themselves that they can continue to do a lot of good things."
Clayton Weirick will get the start against a Desert Christian team that had six players batting over .340 going into Friday's win over Webb, which shared the Prep League title with Pasadena Poly and the Rebels and won the season series with Flintridge Prep, 2-1.
Weirick gave up three hits, struck out five and wasn't credited for allowing any runs over seven innings after he came on in the first inning with no outs of Prep's 6-3 win at Kern Valley in Tuesday's second round.
Perhaps some good news for Prep is Desert Christian used its ace Morgan Earman against Webb. The senior, who took a 0.22 earned-run average and is 10-1 this season, had a perfect game through five innings and threw six innings.
"I really wanted him to go five [innings], he had a really low pitch count and I wanted to save him for Tuesday, but I caved in and I'm bothered that I did that," Conquerors Coach Mark Salazar told the Desert Sun after Friday's game. "This was the big game before the final one, not that the next game's not going to be a tough one, but the Webb school's been really strong this year."
Earman is also a force at the plate. He brought his batting average to .433 (42 for 97) with a three-for-three day that included six runs batted in and a three-run homer Friday, which gives him 39 RBI and six homers on the season.
Desert Christian speedster Marshall Webb is batting .478 (44 for 92) after going three for four with a double and two stolen bases Friday. He has 27 RBI, 49 runs scored and 35 stolen bases this year.
Even in an underdog role — their first of the postseason — don't expect this historic Rebels team to be intimidated.
"We don't lose confidence when we are out there," Prep's Daniel Enzminger said. "We just try to pick each other up, that's something that we want to continue."
—Charles Rich contributed to this story.