With a trip to Dodger Stadium to play in the championship game at stake, Studio City Harvard-Westlake hitters took the patient approach Tuesday in a Southern Section Division 1 semifinal against Huntington Beach.
It started in the first inning against UCLA-bound pitcher Josh Hahn. He was forced to throw 40 pitches. By the end of the fourth inning, he was gone after 91 pitches. Seven times in the game, the count went to 3-and-2 on Harvard-Westlake hitters. Only once did a Wolverine strike out.
“We went in with a great approach,” said first baseman Tyler Ganus, who drew a 14-pitch walk in the third inning.
When the game finally ended on a double play, Harvard-Westlake had earned a 6-2 victory to advance to Saturday’s final against Cypress. Drew Bowser went four for four with three RBIs. The Stanford commit, only a junior, was locked in from beginning to end.
“I don’t even think it was my moment,” he said. “It was the whole team in coming and sticking with our approach and not letting our emotions get the best of us.”
Bowser’s RBI single in the first inning gave Harvard-Westlake a 1-0 lead. Huntington Beach scored two runs in the second inning, getting consecutive doubles from Brett Barrera and Shane Stafford and an RBI single from Nick Upstill. Sophomore pitcher Christian Becerra then settled down and held the Oilers to four hits in five innings.
“He looks like he’s 12 years old out there but is tough as nails,” Harvard-Westlake coach Jared Halpert said of Becerra. “Credit to him for trusting his defense and pounding the strike zone.”
Said Becerra: “No pressure. I knew I had a great team on my side.”
The Wolverines tied the score in the bottom of the fifth on Ganus’ sacrifice fly. In the sixth, with the bases loaded, Bowser delivered a two-run single. Jacob Galloway later added a two-run single.
“We were looking to get the stud UCLA-bound pitcher off the mound as fast as we could, and we had some quality at-bats,” Halpert said of the Wolverines’ approach.
Sam Hliboki pitched the seventh and should be on the mound Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against Cypress, a 1-0 winner over La Mirada in the other semifinal. Cypress won on a ninth-inning walk-off hit from Peter Werth. Brett Wozniak and Cameron Repetti combined on a three-hitter.
Only three weeks ago, Harvard-Westlake (27-5-1) suffered a stinging defeat to Sherman Oaks Notre Dame in a game that decided the Mission League title. The Wolverines picked themselves up and refused to dwell on the past.
“We were disappointed but didn’t let it get the best of us and knew there were bigger things ahead,” Bowser said.
In Division 2 semifinals, Santa Margarita and Norco advanced to the championship game. Connor Bane hit two home runs and Alex Schrier threw a complete game in Santa Margarita’s 9-1 win over Redondo. Norco defeated Crescenta Valley 4-3. Michael Forbes came in and got the final six outs for Norco. Will Grim had four hits for Crescenta Valley.
In Division 3, Temecula Great Oak defeated Yorba Linda 3-1 while La Canada beat Oak Hills 13-2.