Sunny Hills High School's baseball team won its first league title in the school's 26-year history with a 5-3 victory over Troy on Wednesday that featured the pitching and hitting of Lancer star Paul Abbott.
Abbott (9-1) allowed only four hits, struck out 10 and added two singles in what is becoming a routine performance for the senior. He also scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning when the Lancers rallied for three runs to turn the game around.
The win was the 11th in 12 league games for Sunny Hills (18-4) and expanded its lead to four games over second-place Troy (7-5, 11-9) with only three games remaining. Abbott finished with style, striking out John Mash on three pitches to give him 117 strikeouts for the season.
"I thought Paul threw well, but he was tiring in the end," Lancer Coach Doug Elliott said. "He gets on base a lot and has a tendency to get tired down the stretch."
A dozen scouts sat behind the Troy diamond armed with speed guns that recorded Abbott's fastball at 86 miles per hour, but his hitting was equally impressive. He went 2 for 4 and scored twice, improving his batting average to .464.
Troy's only serious threat came in the third inning when the Warriors took a 2-0 lead on two walks, a couple of wild pitches, a run-scoring single by Mash and Tony Godfrey's double to left-center that scored Steve Russell.
Sunny Hills tied the game, 2-2, in the fourth inning with three base hits off starter Mike Greer (4-1) and then sent Greer to the bench with a three-run rally in the sixth. Abbott and catcher Adrian Schicker played key roles in both scoring rallies.
Abbott singled and scored in both innings and also showed he's pretty good on the base paths with a stolen base in the sixth. Schicker, returning from a three-week layoff with a thigh injury, had a single in the fourth and drove home the winning run in the sixth with a fly ball to right field.
Afterward, Troy Coach Arvin Sethman tried to explain the difference between the teams in a rivalry that has seen Sunny Hills win three times this season.
"We lost, 5-4, the first time we faced Abbott and then 5-3 today," he said. "In both games, we had to work hard for our runs and it was easy for them. When you get a two-run lead against Abbott, you feel pretty good, but you knew that sooner or later Sunny Hills was going to start hitting."
Abbott has beaten the Warriors twice and one sensed that the Troy players knew they had their work cut out for them when they started "high-fiving" on the bench after Abbott threw consecutive wild pitches to move a runner to third.
"You know going into the game that it isn't going to be easy against Abbott, and you're going to need some breaks to beat him," Sethman said. "We got some breaks early, and then they got all the breaks in the end. It seemed like it was easy for them and hard for us."
However easy it may have appeared, it has certainly been difficult for the Lancers to win that elusive league title. This is a school that had current New York Mets catcher Gary Carter in the lineup for four years and failed to win a championship.
The entire Sunny Hills team celebrated by piling on Elliott at midfield during an interview. Undaunted, Elliott emerged from the pile, turned to reporters and asked, "Next question?"
In other Freeway League action:
Sonora 8, Buena Park 4--The Raiders, who didn't score a run and had only three hits in its two games last week, erupted for 14 hits to beat the Coyotes at Sonora.
The Raiders (6-6 in league) trailed, 1-0, but scored four runs in the bottom of the first to take the lead for good. Mitch Kaylor led Sonora by going 3 for 4 with two doubles and two RBIs while Rob Stuart went 2 for 4 with three RBIs.
Mike McClaran pitched a complete game to get the win. Todd Bunch had one of the Coyotes' eight hits, a two-run home run in the seventh.
Fullerton 19, La Habra 14--The Indians improved their league record to 5-7 with a win at La Habra. The Highlanders dropped to 3-9.
Valencia 10, Savanna 5--The Tigers scored four runs in the sixth inning, three on a home run by shortstop Jim Campanis, to blow open what had been a close game at Valencia. Campanis was 4 for 4, with four RBIs. He had an run scoring double in the second inning.
Valencia (8-4) had led 6-3 before Campanis' hit. The Tigers later scored when Savanna pitchers walked in a run. Valencia second baseman Troy Barnhart stole two bases to run his season total to 25. Starting pitcher Jeff Martinez (3-1) got the win and Steve Street earned a save.