Riverside North defeats Anaheim Esperanza, 7-1, for Southern Section Division 1 baseball title
They put down bunts, they converted a double play, they threw out a runner at the plate, they executed a hit-and-run play, they pulled off a double steal.
Riverside North, the team that was 4-24 two seasons ago, showed everyone Friday night at Dodger Stadium how baseball is supposed to be played, and the result was a 7-1 victory over Anaheim Esperanza in the Southern Section Division 1 championship game.
A three-run fourth inning by the Huskies (27-7) wiped out a 1-0 deficit and lifted them to their first title since 1994, when now-major leaguer Adam Kennedy was the star.
Coach Steve Madril looked on proudly, supported by a vocal contingent of Riverside fans and the school band as his players helped the Huskies rise to the top in the toughest baseball division in Southern California.
Evan Perez (8-2) threw a complete game, giving up five hits while striking out seven and walking two.
The fourth inning turned the game around. Steven Pena led off with an infield single. Andrew Saucedo walked. Then Eddy Rodriguez put down a bunt that was thrown away, allowing one run to score. Perez and Juan DeLaCruz each followed with run-scoring singles.
Esperanza (23-11) had started the game getting a run off Perez, with Nick Catalano racing home from first after a leadoff walk and a double to Ryan Cooper.
But Perez was rarely threatened after that, supported by strong defense, including Pena throwing out Ryan Aguilar at the plate in the fourth.
Saucedo’s three-run double in the seventh off reliever Chris Connors broke the game open.
To make it through a gauntlet of top teams to reach the final, you have to be fundamentally sound, and that was how North was able to knock off Anaheim Canyon, San Juan Capistrano JSerra, Dana Hills, Lakewood and finally the Aztecs to take home the championship trophy.
Gabriel Franca was magnificent playing shortstop throughout the playoffs. Pena struggled at times in center field Friday, but he was a hero in the semifinal victory over Lakewood with his glove.
And Perez was focused from start to finish.