FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Having picked up a key Sunset League victory Friday over Edison High, the Newport Harbor baseball team ventured to Fountain Valley on a blustery Wednesday, hoping to keep its momentum going against the league-leading Barons.
The Sailors played on even terms with the third-ranked team in CIF Southern Section Division 1 on a wind-whipped afternoon, but Fountain Valley put up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth inning and made it stand to come away with a 3-2 victory.
It kept the Barons alone in first place in the league standings. They'll take a 9-1 league record and 16-6 overall mark into Friday's league series finale at Newport.
The Sailors (10-11, 3-7) limited a potent Fountain Valley offense, one that had scored 15 runs in two wins last week against then-No. 1 ranked Huntington Beach, to single runs in the second, fourth and fifth innings.
Newport Harbor had tied the score (2-2) in the top of the fifth and had the bases loaded with one out, but couldn't push across the go-ahead run. A potential, go-ahead run was forced out at home on a throw to the plate for the second out, and a strikeout ended the threat.
The Sailors, down 3-2, put the tying run at third base with two out in the sixth but again, couldn't deliver the equalizer.
"I told the kids we made some critical mistakes early that cost us some runs," Newport Coach Evan Chalmers said. "Those are the little things that were glaring today for us.
"But, this was a terrific effort against a team that had put up six and nine [runs] on Huntington Beach last week, and 10 [runs] on us the first time we played them. We played them to the end."
Miscues cost the Sailors early, and Fountain Valley took advantage by scoring single runs that gave them leads of 1-0 and 2-1. They took away from a fine pitching effort by junior Liam Ogburn who went three batters into the bottom of the fifth before being relieved by usual-starter-turned-closer Connor Seabold.
Newport, meanwhile, put runners on base in every inning except the fourth where Fountain Valley starter Hunter Margain retired the side, and in the seventh. Margain was pulled in the top of the fifth after the Sailors had put two runners on base with one out. The junior gave way to senior Daniel Patzlaff, starting shortstop and lead-off hitter for the Barons, who finished the fifth and got the win. Junior Justin Cobb threw the sixth and senior ace Scott Schultz closed the seventh.
"I thought Liam [Ogburn] was terrific," Chalmers said. "He was just what the doctor had ordered for us and did a great job against this [Fountain Valley] group. We were hoping the game would be tight in the fourth or fifth inning, and then bring in Connor [Seabold], and Liam got us there."
Fountain Valley went up, 1-0, in the bottom of the second when Dillon Persinger drew a lead-off walk, went to second after an errant throw on a pick-off attempt at first, was sacrificed to third, and scored on Cobb's sacrifice fly to right field. Newport countered in the top of the third to tie the score. Seabold started the inning with a single to center, was bunted to second by Logan Mahaffy, took third on a fielder's choice ground out and was knocked in when clean-up hitter Tk McWhertor (two hits) drove a 2-0 pitch for a single to center.
The Barons, aided by an infield error on a throw to first, regained the lead (2-1) by scoring with two out in the bottom of the fourth. The run came in when Daniel Rosica sent a liner back toward the mound, the ball glancing hard off the glove of Ogburn who went to his right on the play. The ball slowly rolled toward shortstop, allowing Cobb, who hit a lead-off single, to score from third.
As it had done in the top of the third, Newport responded immediately in the top of the fifth and pushed across the tying run. Seabold singled with one out and Mahaffy was hit by a pitch before Shaun Vetrovec belted a double to center to score Seabold from second.
Fountain Valley went into the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth. Brock Lundquist drew a one-out walk and Willie Aguilar sent a slow grounder to the left side of the infield where Mahaffy, at shortstop, had no chance of making a play. After Ogburn exited, Persinger sent an 0-2 pitch from Seabold to the left side of the infield and into left field. Lundquist came around from second and beat a throw to the plate to score the winning run.
The Sailors fought back in the top of the sixth where Jonah Dipoto hit a lead-off single up the middle. Two outs later, and with Dipoto at third, Seabold, who had two hits and had walked in his three previous plate appearances, took his first pitch from Cobb and laid down a bunt. The ball rolled down the first base line where Lundquist came in, made the scoop, and tagged the bag for the third out.
"We had seen a report that their first baseman [Lundquist] tends to play back deep," Chalmers said. "We really didn't call for the bunt but Connor and I talked about it and we felt like if he could get a good pitch, go after it, then. He had the green light, and Connor is great in those situations.
"In retrospect, I would have had him swing away, instead."
Fountain Valley Coach Deric Yanagisawa brought in Schultz to close the seventh. He did so on six pitches to earn his third save.
"Any time you go up against the pitching of Newport Harbor, you know they will keep the game close," Yanagisawa said. "They have arms on that team and I thought Evan [Chalmers] had a really good game plan to get as many innings out of their starter [Ogburn]. He gave us fits."