Orange Lutheran captures National High School Invitational title
Pitching and defense help Lutheran sneak past Dana Hills
By Mike Rosenbaum
CARY, N.C. -- In a battle between two talented Southern California programs, it was Orange Lutheran who emerged victorious in Saturday's National High School Invitational championship game, defeating Dana Hills, 3-2, at Coleman Field.
"What a game. It was wild -- ups and downs -- but every way you'd want a championship game to be. A lot of things happened in that game that you want to see happen in a high school baseball game," Lutheran head coach Eric Borba said following the game.
Strong pitching and defense were once again at the heart of Lutheran's (Orange, Calif.) success on Saturday, and for the second straight day they received a key contribution from an underclassman.
With the game tied at 2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning, the Lancers saw their first two batters reach base before advancing on a sacrifice bunt. The next batter, Sawyer Chesley, was intentionally walked, loading the bases with one out for pinch-hitter Jasiah Dixon. Though the sophomore fell behind in the count, he hung in to get a pitch he could handle, hitting an elevated 1-2 fastball to center field for a sacrifice fly that put Lutheran ahead, 3-2.
"The depth of our team is unbelievable -- I've never had a team as deep as this -- and we have a lot of confidence in a lot of guys," said Borba. "We knew we had Jasiah, who's been nursing his hamstring a little bit, on the bench, and after they intentionally walked Sawyer, I don't think there was any other decision [other than] to put Jasiah in there."
"Coach told me to go swing a bat, and I got pretty excited about that," Dixon said. "I reached out for two balls in the dirt but then told myself I need to mentally prepare for a team at-bat right now. Once I saw that fastball up I knew I had to go get it and put it in the outfield, score that run."
Dixon's clutch sacrifice fly supported a gutsy performance on the mound from senior right-hander Zach Busalacchi, who after entering in relief in the third inning, kept Dana Hills off the board for the next five innings, scattering five hits and striking out one while throwing 46 of 66 pitches for strikes to record the win.
"I thought Zach coming out of the bullpen was tremendous," Borba said. "We wanted the ball in Zach's hands -- a senior at the end of the game -- and we were able to get there and he did a great job."
Yet it was the Lancers' defense which shined brightest in Saturday's contest, with both senior shortstop Tristan Hanoian, a Texas Christian commit, and junior second baseman Zachary Lew (Cal State Fullerton) making several key plays -- including Hanoian's game-ending double play -- to thwart potential scoring opportunities for Dana Hills.
"Our infield is special. That's what we try to preach to our pitchers every day -- that we have nine guys out there on defense who've been coming through with big plays all year, and they continued to do that today," Borba said.
Left fielder Isaac Martinez also delivered two excellent throws to cut down runners at the plate in the third and fourth innings that helped preserve the tie.
"Isaac made two just tremendous plays, and Caleb Ricketts did a great job securing both throws and making the tags," Borba added. The Lancers collected just four hits in the victory, which also was their lowest-scoring game in the tournament. Chesley, an Arizona commit, led the way, going 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles and an RBI, while Garrett Mitchell, MLBPipeline.com's No. 20 prep prospect for the 2017 Draft, and freshman Elijah Buries collected the team's other two knocks.
"For our program, for our school that supports our program, they've all worked hard," said Borba. "[This championship] means a lot to the whole community around Orange Lutheran High School. We knew going into this year we were going to have a strong team with all the experience we have, and I think this is a momentum-builder and a confidence-builder knowing that we can play with anyone in the country."
Merritt Island 7, Brother Rice 2
Mason Denaburg, one of the top prep prospects in the 2018 Draft class, put a bow on his impressive tournament by going 1-for-2 with two RBIs, two runs scored and two walks, and junior right-hander Collin Taulbee turned in a complete-game effort on the mound for Merritt Island.
Huntington Beach 4, Canterbury 3
Hagen Danner did it on both sides of the ball for Huntington Beach, picking up the win by allowing one earned run on five hits with six strikeouts in five innings -- he sat 90-92 mph with a hammer curve at 75-76 mph -- and going 1-for-2 with an RBI double at the plate.
Arlington 2, Hough 1
The two teams traded runs in the second inning before the Tigers finally walked it off, when senior outfielder Noah Miller delivered a one-out single to plate Justin Ogle.
Trinity Christian 2, South Hills 1
Sophomore right-hander Austin Thomas, a Miami commit, went the distance for Trinity (Jacksonville, Fla.), permitting one unearned run on three hits with six strikeouts while throwing 62 of his 82 pitches for strikes. Shortstop Christopher Martin, a Vanderbilt commit, went 2-for-2 with an RBI double and two steals.
Winder-Barrow 6, Rocky Mountain 5
After falling in the semifinals on Friday night, Winder-Barrow (Winder, Ga.) rebounded on the tournament's final day to record a walk-off victory on a wild pitch in the eighth inning. Catcher Beau Hanna, who is committed to Kennesaw State, tallied two RBIs in a 1-for-4 performance, and Vanderbilt commit and leadoff hitter Patrick DeMarco went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored.
American Heritage 6, Hamilton 5
Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) rallied in their final at-bat to tie the game before doing the same in the 11th inning, when sophomore Santiago Garavito came through with a two-out, game-winning single to left field. Slugging junior Triston Casas reached base in each of his six plate appearances, finishing 2-for-2 with four walks.
Archbishop McCarthy 4, Cullman 0
Sophomore left-hander Yordani Carmona, a Miami recruit, dominated over five scoreless for McCarthy (Southwest Ranches, Fla.), yielding three hits while fanning six. At the plate, first baseman Alex Toral, MLBPipeline.com's No. 21 prep prospect, went 2-for-3 with an RBI, while sophomore Adan Fernandez continued his hot hitting by tallying a two-run double.
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.