NEWPORT BEACH — Weird things happened on a windy Wednesday afternoon at the Newport Harbor High baseball field.
A couple of well-hit balls carried all the way out of the park. A couple of balls appeared foul down the left-field line, only to be blown back into play for hits.
But the Sailors couldn't really blame their 8-5 loss to first-place Fountain Valley in a Sunset League game on gusts of air.
Errors were a bigger issue.
Newport Harbor (9-10, 2-7 in league) committed five of them in falling further behind in the league race. The Sailors are in last place, a half-game behind Huntington Beach.
It was the Sailors' second loss in two days against Fountain Valley (20-1, 9-0), ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division 1 and No. 21 nationally by Maxpreps.com. They fell on the road, 13-3, on Tuesday.
They had their chances in both games.
"If we make plays, we win," Newport Harbor Coach Patrick Murphy said. "[Tuesday] we were down, 5-3, in the fifth inning, and we had runners on second and third with two outs. We get a hit, we're tied up. Against Edison the week before, we lost, 2-1, and ran ourselves out of an inning. We scored five runs in the first inning against Los Al, and gave that game away. It's tough to win when you don't play catch, and ultimately we're just not playing catch when we have to.
"We can't take any more ground balls, we can't do anything more in preparation. It's just not happening ... If we play to our potential, we should have won that game. We played ourselves out of that game. We didn't get beat; we lost."
Newport Harbor out-hit Fountain Valley, 14-7, in Wednesday's contest, but the Barons took advantage of Newport Harbor's miscues. Up, 4-2, they scored three more unearned runs in the top of the fifth inning to pad their lead.
It was not without controversy. A routine fly ball to center by leadoff hitter Nick Yang appeared to be caught, though the Sailors center fielder dropped the ball on the transfer from his glove. The umpire, however, called Yang safe at second base. Murphy was incredulous.
"That's a pretty easy play," he said. "The center fielder catches the ball and has it for a good two seconds, three seconds. I mean, he had it, clearly."
A man walked by after the game and showed Murphy a picture of the catch, on a digital camera screen. All Murphy could do was laugh.
"It's not that hard a play to call, really," Murphy said. "You saw it. He caught the ball. It was a bad call. Their coach commented after the play on how bad the call was."
Fountain Valley's Jacob Peralta made the Sailors pay. He followed by reaching on an infield error, with pinch-runner Jake Church scoring on the play. Two outs later, Long Beach State commit Brock Lundquist brought home Peralta with a home run to right-center.
The Sailors rallied for three runs in the bottom of the fifth, highlighted by a two-run home run by Drew Andary. Shaun Vetrovec followed with a single, and he was brought home on Jake Norton's second double of the game to narrow the deficit to 7-5.
Fountain Valley added a John Shattles homer in the sixth, but Newport almost got closer in the bottom of the frame before another controversial call. With runners at the corners and one out, Andary was hit by a pitch. The home-plate umpire, however, ruled that Andary did not make an effort to get out of the way.
Murphy was again incensed, particularly after he felt Fountain Valley's Yang leaned into a pitch in the second inning and was awarded first base. But Andary had to come back to home plate, and on the next pitch Barons reliever Justin Cobb induced an inning-ending ground ball.
Vetrovec led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, and a blast to left by Norton nearly brought the Sailors within a single run. This time the ball didn't carry enough, though, and Lundquist picked it off just before the wall.
"The wind was blowing out today, and that ball could have gotten out," Fountain Valley Coach Deric Yanagisawa said. "We caught a lot of breaks today, and we were very fortunate to come out of here with a win, but we put ourselves in that position where we give ourselves some room for error. Our offense is starting to pick it up a little bit, and our middle of the lineup is getting hot. We create some of that luck."