Moments after center fielder Nathan Manning squeezed the ball for the final out, Capistrano Valley players poured out of the dugout to mob pitcher Ryan Daugherty.
Why wouldn’t they? The Cougars’ senior left-hander was masterful on the mound, tossing a three-hitter with six strikeouts in a 2-1 victory over Foothill in the Southern Section Division I championship game Saturday at Cal State Fullerton.
It was Capistrano Valley’s seventh title and first since 2009, but it was far from easy as Daugherty needed 108 pitches to outduel Foothill ace Ryan Taurek, who allowed four hits.
“We were counting pitches so we knew that was the last batter for Ryan,” said Bob Zamora, Capistrano Valley’s head coach for 41 years. “If he doesn’t get that last out, we had someone else ready, but he really wanted it. He’s our MVP.”
Kyle Ashworth led off the game with a walk, moved to third on a single by Chad Castillo and scored on a sacrifice fly by Griffin Selby to give Foothill (25-8) a 1-0 lead.
Capistrano Valley pulled even in the second when a wide throw to first allowed pinch-runner Nathan Benefeito to score from third. Blake Fitzgerald tried to score the go-ahead run but was out at the plate.
The Cougars (25-10) took a 2-1 lead in the third when Daugherty flared a triple to right and scored on a line out to left by Bryce Willits.
Daugherty retired the first two in the fourth, but Alex Sardina reached on an error and Taurek doubled to left, advancing Sardina to third. Daugherty escaped unscathed when Jack Sampson lined out to center.
In the seventh, Daugherty struck out Sardina swinging and got Taurek to ground to third, but Sampson drew a walk. Only after Ashworth flied out could the Cougars begin celebrating.