The Marina Vikings had captured a Sunset League baseball championship for the first time in 11 years and were making a return appearance Friday to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 baseball playoffs for the first time since finishing runner-up to the division title three years ago.
Hoping to make another deep run into the postseason, the Vikings, instead, had a short-lived stay after running into a buzz-saw in the Corona Panthers.
Corona used the near-perfect pitching of Michael Hobbs and parlayed a big fourth inning into a big victory in posting an 8-0 road win in a first-round contest.
Hobbs threw a no-hitter and the Vikings were sent down in order in six of seven innings. He hit Marina’s lead-off hitter in the bottom of the third, Tyler Abend, and Eric Anderson, the Vikings’ No. 9 hitter, struck out on a low curve ball that got away from Panthers catcher Anthony Czerwinski that allowed Anderson to reach first base safely in the sixth.
Anderson would be doubled-up moments later on a double-play fly-out to right field.
Hobbs, who has committed to St. Mary’s University, struck out eight in an outing that ended with him being mobbed by teammates and being presented with the game ball by his coaching staff.
Corona Coach Andy Wise said it was the first-hitter for the junior right-hander.
“He was only 6-6 but he’s been throwing really well for us,” Wise said of Hobbs’ record. “We have a 7-0 guy [junior right-hander Jeremiah Pridd] who we didn’t use today, but [Hobbs] proved us right in going with him.”
“I thought he did an outstanding job against a very good team. We have a ton of respect for their big fellow [Marina starting pitcher Riley Ohl] over there. He’s been outstanding this year. He’s a veteran and has three, really good pitches. We just did a very good job today of putting the ball in play.”
Corona had six hits off Ohl in its first three at-bats, although one was a bloop single that fell in shallow center field and another, an infield dribbler.
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead after one inning on a Marina throwing error on a bunt play and after two out to start the third, rallied for a second run brought in on an RBI single down the line in left field by Jayden Kiernan.
The top of the fourth is where Corona gained complete control.
A lead-off double to the corner of right-field by Chase Robison ignited an inning where the Panthers sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs on six hits and two walks (both intentional) for a commanding, 8-0 advantage. Six of their first seven hitters singled, and Ohl left the game after the first five Panther batters had taken the score to 4-0.
Sophomore Jared Minor took over for Ohl and pitched until giving way at the outset of the seventh inning to senior Matt Clark.
“Everything was up for Riley today,” Marina Coach Bob Marshall said of his senior ace. "[Corona is] an aggressive team and they swung the bat and hit [Ohl’s] fastball. He was off, and their guy [Hobbs] pitched a heck of a game.”
The loss wasn’t indicative of the season turned in by Marina which closed out a 20-11 season. The 2016 Vikings, who had only five returnees from the previous season, became only the third Marina varsity baseball team to win a Sunset League championship, joining the 1977 and 2005 squads for the honor.
The Vikings entered the playoffs ranked ninth in Division 1.
They were unranked at the outset of the season.
“This year was a bit of a surprise for us because we were a young team and rebuilding, but our guys played tight and together,” Marshall said. “We had eight or nine one-run games. We just scrapped and fought back. It showed the character of this team.”
Corona, which finished a game behind champion Santiago Corona in the Big VIII League standings, will take a 23-9 record into a second-round game next Tuesday against Newhall Hart, which beat Long Beach Millikan, 3-2.
In other Division 1 baseball first-round playoff action Friday:
Huntington Beach, the second-place team from the Sunset League and the division’s defending champion, went to Santiago/Corona and defeated the Big VIII League champion Sharks, 5-2.
Edison, the third-place team from the Sunset League, traveled to face fourth-seeded Cypress and lost, 3-0, to the Empire League champion Centurions.