Dana Hills, Orange Lutheran secure spots in NHSI title game

Championship bout will feature two California teams for fifth time in six years

Dana Hills, Orange Lutheran secure spots in NHSI title game

CARY, N.C. -- For the fifth time in six years of the National High School Invitational, it will be two California teams playing in the championship game.
 
Dana Hills (Dana Point, Calif.) and Orange Lutheran (Orange, Calif.) will square off on Saturday at Coleman Field in a game that can be seen live on MLB.com at 12:15 p.m. ET.

After edging Cullman in the tournament's opening round and then defeating Canterbury on Thursday, Dana Hills pulled off a dramatic comeback victory on Saturday night against Winder-Barrow, overcoming a three-run deficit and scoring two runs in their final frame for a 6-5 walkoff victory. MLBPipeline.com No. 8 prep prospect Hans Crouse delivered the game-winning hit for the Dolphins, muscling a one-out single into right field with the bases loaded.
 
Lutheran, meanwhile, is set to compete for the NHSI title after three decisive victories. They beat Merritt Island in the first round and South Hills in the second while holding both opponents to a combined four runs. On Friday, the Lancers, led by catcher Caleb Ricketts and standout freshman Max Rajcic, used a four-run fourth inning to defeat South Hills.

Dana Hills 6, Winder-Barrow 5
Crouse showed his potential on the mound in the opening round of the National High School Invitational, racking up nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings to lead Dana Hills past Cullman. On Friday, the USC-bound senior did it with his bat, collecting two key hits including a walk-off single to propel the Dolphins to a 6-5 victory over Winder-Barrow and secure a spot in Saturday's championship game.
 
Trailing by one run entering the bottom of the seventh, Dana Hills recorded a pair of singles to open the frame before pushing across the tying run on back-to-back walks. That set the stage for Crouse, who after showing bunt on the first pitch of the at-bat, got enough of an inside fastball to place it just out of the reach of Winder-Barrow's outstretched second baseman.

Crouse on walk-off hit

"I missed the sign -- it was supposed to be a squeeze play," admitted Crouse after the game. "Thankfully the ball bounced in the dirt, because Zach [Waters] would not have been able to get back if it was a strike, and it probably would have cost us an out. I would have been losing my mind if I hadn't gotten that hit."
 
Crouse also was responsible for starting the scoring for Dana Hills, as his two-run single to left field in the bottom of the first staked his team to an early lead. However, the Dolphins would give those runs back in the third, when Winder-Barrow scored five runs on four hits to take a 5-2 lead.
 
But Dana Hills chipped away in the subsequent frames, tallying runs in the fourth and fifth innings, before rallying to win in the seventh.
 
"Ultimately I've told these guys that I don't care how they do it -- we have to touch home plate more than them," said Dolphins head coach Tom Faris. "So whatever we have to do to do that, let's do it. These guys prevailed, they hung in there and there's no quit in them. It was fun to watch."
 
Crouse paced the Dana Hills offense by going 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs, while Waters, a sophomore shortstop, finished 2-for-3 with three runs scored out of the leadoff spot.
 
On the mound, Jonathan Infante tossed four masterful innings after entering in relief in the fourth inning. The junior right-hander allowed just one hit and struck out one while retiring 12 of the 13 batters he faced.

Orange Lutheran 5, South Hills 3
The Lancers jumped out to an early lead on an RBI single from junior catcher Caleb Ricketts in the first inning, only to see South Hills push across three runs on three hits in the following frame. They struggled to put runners on base during the next two innings before finally getting to Huskies starter Andres Alvarez in the fourth, when they scored four runs on five hits, including three extra-base hits.

Orange Lutheran's 4th inning

"We had a team meeting right before that inning," said Borba, "and I told them they had two choices: pack it up, or you can fight and show something we've never done before."

The Lancers opted for the latter, as they opened the frame with consecutive hits before freshman Elijah Buries delivered a two-run double to tie the game. Borba then turned to his bench for a pinch-hitter, calling on another freshman, Rajcic, to further his team's rally. The 15-year-old proved up for the challenge, as he laced an 0-1 pitch into the right-center field gap to put Lutheran ahead, 4-3. Left fielder Isaac Martinez would then add a key insurance run with a line-drive single to right field.

Buries on game-tying hit, win

"I was just thinking drive the ball up the middle and hit something hard to score the runner," said Rajcic.

The two-run lead was more than enough for senior Brenden Avventino, who, after entering in relief in the second inning, tossed 5 1/3 scoreless frames for the Lancers, scattering five hits and striking out a pair.

"We knew it was going to be a dog fight," said Lutheran head coach Eric Borba after the game. "We've played them a couple times over the last couple months in the preseason in different tournaments, and they actually beat up on us a little bit. We knew we had our work cut out for us."

Other games

American Heritage 7, Trinity Christian 4
Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) scored all seven of its runs during the first two innings, including a six-run second that saw the Patriots collect only three hits but send 10 batters to the plate. Senior shortstop and Miami commit Mark Vientos went 2-for-4 and scored two runs out of the leadoff spot, while junior Julio Cortez used a pair of singles to tally three RBIs.

Archbishop McCarthy 12, Canterbury 5
After scoring just four runs between their first two games, Archbishop McCarthy (Southwest Ranches, Fla.) erupted to score 12 runs on 15 hits on Friday. Much of that production came from Miami recruit and cleanup hitter Joe Perez, who connected on a first-inning grand slam, hit a two-run double in the second and added a run-scoring single in the third en route to seven RBIs. Sophomore middle infielder Luis Tuero also had a big game offensively for the Mavericks, going 4-for-4 with three runs scored, an RBI and a stolen base out of the leadoff spot.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.