Huntington Beach wins National H.S. Invitational title
By Tom Shanahan
Special to MLB.com |
CARY, N.C. -- Huntington Beach High's baseball players leaned over the dugout railing with two outs and a five-run, seventh-inning lead. They knew the drill as defending champions of Southern California's toughest high school division.
Once third baseman Hagen Danner squeezed a popup for the final out, the team's pitcher/catcher/infielder cast aside his glove and the dog pile was on. The Oilers celebrated winning the fifth annual National High School Invitational title with a 7-2 victory over Canoga Park (Calif.) Chaminade Prep Saturday at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
"This dog pile to win a national title tops last year," said center fielder Dominic Abbadessa, a Long Beach State commit considered a lower-round draft prospect. "We were here (NHSI) last year and felt that gave us an edge to win it this time. This is an awesome feeling."
Southern California schools have now won four of the five NHSI titles. San Clemente won in 2015 and Santa Ana Mater Dei won in 2012 and 2013. Orlando (Fla.) The First Academy won in 2014.
The Oilers' dogpile was followed by more celebrations. As head coach Benji Medure, winning sophomore pitcher Nate Madole and Danner were interviewed on camera for MLB.com, the players dumped a bucket of ice on Medure and smeared a cake in Madole's face.
"[Right fielder Landon] Silver did that last year," Medure said of a cake celebration for the Southern Section Division I title. "It's a terrible tradition, but it's become a tradition."
Few high school juniors are more accustomed to celebrations than Danner, a UCLA commit expected to be one of the top Major League Baseball Draft prospects in 2017. Prior to his USA Baseball honors, he led Huntington Beach Ocean View's Little League team to the 2011 Little League World Series championship.
He didn't flinch under the microscope of the NHSI with a 3-of-4 day and two runs scored in the final. That followed a solo home run to break a scoreless tie in the 3-1 semifinal win Friday over Acworth (Ga.) Allatoona.
"That kid was born attracting attention," said Abbadessa, who was 1-of-4 with a run scored and an RBI. "He's got such a great future in front of him. He's a year younger than me, but I learn from him."
Chaminade Prep was led by center fielder Blake Rutherford, a UCLA commit that is the No. 7 MLBPipeline.com prospect, but the Eagles ran out of pitching despite a 1-2-3 first inning. Chaminade used six pitchers. The Oilers scored four in the second, one in the third and two in the sixth.
Danner led off the second with a double, Silver singled and Danner came home on a bunt by junior second baseman Trevor Windisch. Sophomore catcher Nick Lopez walked and Silver came home on Abaadessa's infield single. Windisch and Lopez scored on a single by Chad Minato, a shortstop committed to Harvard, for what turned out to be an insurmountable 4-0 lead.
"We've all grown up together and have been best friends," Danner said. "We've been successful players together. We know each other well and we play with each other well."
Madole, a first-year varsity player after playing on the freshman team a year ago (Huntington Beach fields varsity, JV and freshmen teams), spaced out seven hits over 6 1/3 innings to pick up the biggest win of his young career.
"I think it's cool to be with these guys," said Madole, referring to Minato and Danner at the interview table. "I played in the same Little League as these guys. I remember thinking I loved how they played. To play on the same field with them is awesome."
For Chaminade, Rutherford finished his impressive tournament 1-of-3 with a double down the right-field line, a walk and reaching base on an error. For the tournament, he hit .643 (9-of-14).
He was aggressive to the end, tagging up on a fly ball from second with a hard slide into third. After Friday's semifinals, he signed autographs for young kids while wearing torn pants from sliding into third on a triple.
Chaminade's Washington-bound catcher Nick Kahle was 2-of-4 with a run scored. Uncommitted senior outfielder Blake Solis, who hit a walk-off home run to win to advance from the quarterfinals, was 2-of-4 with two RBIs.
"I'm happy with the way we played this week," Chaminade Coach Frank Mutz said. "We beat some good teams here, it was a terrific tournament and they treat you great here. We responded to the competition here. Every game was a battle. With the players we have we feel we're as good as anybody else in the country."
Tom Shanahan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.