By Mike Sciacca
4:01 PM PDT, May 15, 2013
Huntington Beach High needed a win on the final day of the regular season on May 9, to stay in the conversation for the CIF Southern Section baseball playoffs.
The Oilers stayed relevant by winning, 5-0, at Edison. The victory led to a playoff berth that they were awarded Monday and on Tuesday they remained alive in Division 1 postseason play.
Huntington went to Riverside to battle ML King in a Division 1 wild-card game between teams that were at-large entries to the playoffs. The Oilers came away with a 2-1 victory that sends them on to a first-round date Thursday at top-ranked Mater Dei.
Junior Jesse Kuet went three for four with a run scored and junior Andrew Arledge, Jake Brodt and Clay Morris combined to pitch a four-hitter.
Arledge took the win. He threw four scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks. Morris shut down the Wolves (12-13, Big VIII No. 3) in a scoreless seventh inning to earn the save.
"It was a gritty win on the road," Huntington Coach Benji Medure said. "MLK is a scrappy, tough team, so to go into the heat and grind out a win is impressive."
Huntington, the No. 4 team from the Sunset League, ran its record to 14-13.
Thursday's opponent, top-seed Mater Dei, is 24-2 and champion of the Trinity League.
In other Division 1 first-round games Thursday:
Alemany (19-10) vs. Fountain Valley (23-4)
(3:15 p.m., Fountain Valley High)
Sixth-ranked Fountain Valley begins the postseason against a Mission Hills Alemany team that earned an at-large berth to the playoffs.
The Warriors moved on to face Fountain Valley by defeating Canyon Springs, 11-10, in a wild-card game Tuesday.
"Our draw is a tough one," Fountain Valley Coach Deric Yanagisawa said. "I don't think anyone has an 'easy' draw. You're playing a quality opponent from the first game. If you take anyone lightly, you're probably going home.
"We're treating this first game as a CIF championship game. We'll take each game as they come and treat everyone like it's the final game."
Alemany of the Mission League has won three of its last four games, and six of their 10 losses have come on the road. The Warriors have a talented pitching staff that includes Rene Deleon, Kyle Merkel, Carter Yankie and Brandon Ponticelli.
Fountain Valley has been ranked among the top teams in Division 1 throughout the season. The Barons fashioned a 14-game win streak during the regular season but dropped their final two games.
"We had a tough few weeks," Yanagisawa said. "Our kids have been resilient all year. We have had great workouts the last few days and have worked on some of the things that will be important to us in the playoffs.
"The D-1 field is extremely deep. There are so many quality teams which should make for some great baseball. Whoever wins will have to be playing great baseball for five games in a row."
Seven Barons hold a batting average above .320 led by juniors Brock Lundquist and Daniel Patzlaff at .389 and .386, respectively. Lundquist (eight) and Patzlaff (six) also lead the team in home runs as well as in doubles.
Yanagisawa said that senior Monty Plattner (9-0, one save) will start Thursday.
"I've been extremely proud of our players," Yanagisawa said. "They have shown a commitment to become better student-athletes. My coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for the success we've had. Their countless hours on the field coaching and scouting have been extremely vital to our success."
Norco (20-4) vs. Marina (18-8)
(3:15 p.m., Marina High)
This playoff opener features teams that enter the postseason on hot streaks.
Marina, the second-place team from the Sunset League, brings a five-game win streak into Thursday's meet. Norco, which tied Corona Santiago for the Big VIII League title but is the league's No. 2 team in the playoffs, has won its last seven games.
"This will be a good test for us right out of the gate," Marina Coach Bob Marshall said. "In order to get to the finals at Dodger Stadium, we have to, and will have to, go through quality teams.
"At this point, all teams are quality. With single-elimination, it takes a lot of luck and the ball bouncing our way and, of course, peaking at the right time."
Marina is on the ascend. The Vikings have scored 34 runs during their win streak and have given up only nine runs, with two shutouts to their credit in those five games. Jake Bauers has been a huge key to the Vikings' success. The senior first baseman is hitting .577, has 41 hits including six home runs. He's driven in 21 runs, has scored 29 times, and has drawn 21 walks.
Bauers has a .667 on base average.
Junior outfielder Austin Sojka has a .352 average with 25 hits, nine walks, 14 RBIs and 14 runs scored. Senior third baseman Tyler Mildenberg, who has signed with Oregon St., is hitting .329 and has 27 hits, 11 walks, eight RBIs and has scored 15 runs.
"Jake Bauers has had a phenomenal year, both offensively and defensively, Marshall said of the Hawaii signee. "Our ballclub would not be where we are if it was not for a player like Jake.
"Austin Sojka has had a great year for our squad. He handles our right field very well and has great pop in his bat."
Marina's pitching staff also have keyed several victories. The staff includes a trio left-handers in seniors Jackson Westermeyer (8-1, 41 strikeouts, 1.17 ERA) and Austin Olivas (5-3, 52 strikeouts, 2.05 ERA), and sophomore Steven Gingery (3-2, six saves, 25 strikeouts, 2.39 ERA).
Marshall said that Olivas will start on the mound Thursday.
"He is our big-game pitcher," he said of Olivas. "He threw a complete game against Lakewood last year in the playoffs (a Marina win), and has performed extremely well this year."
Marina last won a CIF title in baseball since 2003.
"Since the Ryan Lemmon Easter tournament, this team has found itself as among some of the best teams around," Marshall said. "It was a struggle of wills in the beginning (of the season) and sometimes, still is. However, this team has pulled together and found ways to win from all players on this squad."