Santa Margarita captures Division I regional baseball title

Santa Margarita baseball players celebrate their 3-2 win over La Costa Canyon.
Santa Margarita baseball players celebrate their 3-2 win over La Costa Canyon in the Southern California Regional Division I championship game on Saturday at Santa Margarita High.
(Nick Koza / For The Times)

Friday night was grad night for Santa Margarita High, and the baseball team’s senior core of Luke Lavin and Blake Balsz and Bryce Humphry and more had one final night of high school fun at Disney’s California Adventure.

And they weren’t going to sleep.

Yeah, they had a baseball game the next day, a rather important one — a final shot to earn a championship in the CIF Southern California Regional final after a May heartbreak in the sectionals. Yet they just wanted to live in the now. Sure, they wanted to win, but this night would not end, and they finally crashed in their respective beds at roughly 7 a.m. to get a couple of precious hours of rest.

At some point that night, though, their mentality for Saturday changed, said Balsz, the Eagles’ catcher.

“We were all like, ‘Well, graduated from high school, that’s pretty cool,’” Balsz said. “‘We’ve done a lot for this school. We’ve worked very hard. What’s the point of not coming out and trying to win the game tomorrow?’” he continued. “And we just kind of flipped a switch.”


Much has been made in local high school baseball news of Southern Section championship winners dropping out of regionals, a common occurrence explained by JSerra coach Brett Kay as “there’s only one dogpile.”

But the triumphant dogpile after Santa Margarita’s 3-2 Division I championship win over Carlsbad’s La Costa Canyon — and subsequent Gatorade shower of coach Chris Malec, during which he posed like he was standing at the figurehead of the Titanic — meant something special to a group of seniors who didn’t want to go out after a Southern Section title-game loss to JSerra.

“Left a sour taste in our mouth,” Lavin said.

Humphry, a University of San Francisco commit, was the hero, going two for three in a game dominated by pitching and defense while delivering an eventual game-winning two-run single in the fourth inning of a 1-1 game.

The Eagles were helped by opportune infield defense behind sophomore starter Hayden George, who gutted out four tough innings of one-run ball and managed to wriggle his way out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fourth inning.

In the seventh, with sophomore Chris Saucedo filling in admirably in relief, Malec emptied the tank by sending out senior Sammy Cova and sophomore Brennan Bauer each to get a single out.

In a program overflowing with catching depth, Humphry, Lavin and Balsz all stuck it out for four years and developed at other positions rather than jumping ship as transfers. Fitting, then, that Lavin notched two hits and an RBI, Balsz controlled a gritty game from behind the plate and Humphry broke the seal.

“It’s never been a dull moment,” Balsz said. “If it wasn’t for all those other catchers, then we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Calabasas 1, Santee Santana 0: The Coyotes scored a run in the top of the eighth inning on an RBI single from Tyler Shulman to win the Division II championship. Jordan Kingston threw three scoreless innings and Luc Olson finished with five scoreless innings.

Westlake Village Westlake 3, Bakersfield Christian 2: Nate Johnson got the final three outs for the save to help Westlake win the Division III championship, giving the Marmonte League two regional champions (Calabasas was the other). Joshua Doyle threw five innings, Jesse Beer threw one scoreless inning and Ethan Bolger had two hits.

Castaic 7, Pomona Ganesha 6: The Coyotes scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth on an error to win the Division V championship and hand Ganesha (20-1) its first defeat. Ganesha had tied the score 5-5 with two runs in the seventh, then went ahead in the top of the ninth 6-5.



Poway 1, Oaks Christian 0: A third-inning RBI single from Miah Garcia enabled Poway to win the Division I regional championship. Oaks Christian dropped to 30-3-1 despite a strong pitching effort from Emelia Davis.

Corona Santiago 5, Lakeside El Capitan 0: The Sharks won the Division II championship behind Emily Delgado, who threw a one-hit shutout and also went four for four. She was 10 for 10 in the regional playoffs, including a home run on Saturday. Ashleigh Mejia also homered for Santiago.

Fullerton 7, Chula Vista Otay Ranch 0: Freshman Malaya Majam-Finch pitched Fullerton to the Division III championship.