The state's No. 1-ranked prep baseball team had its season come to an abrupt end Friday afternoon as Ocean View High School stunned top-ranked Mater Dei, 4-1, in the quarterfinals of the Southern Section 4-A division playoffs at Santa Ana.
The Monarchs, ranked No. 1 by Cal-Hi Sports of Sacramento, fell victim to the four-hit pitching of Ocean View's Rudy Taub and saw its ace pitcher, John Hulshof, allow three home runs in front of an overflow crowd that lined the foul lines and the outfield fence on the Monarchs' field.
Taub allowed only two hits after the first inning and walked only one batter to improve his record to 8-3. The right-hander was the fourth pitcher on Ocean View's junior varsity team last season, and this year, he was the 21st and final player to make the Seahawks' varsity team.
It marked the third straight impressive pitching performance by a Seahawk starter. Taub beat Lakewood, 2-1, in the opening round, and teammate Craig Anderson followed with a 4-1 win over Notre Dame. Ocean View has allowed only three runs in three playoff games.
Seahawk catcher and lead-off hitter Blaine DeBrouwer set the tone for the game by lining Hulshof's fifth pitch over the right-field fence for a 1-0 lead. Ocean View sealed the win in the fourth inning when shortstop David Tinkle and left fielder Phil Chess hit consecutive homers off Hulshof.
"I kid you not, I had a premonition last night that DeBrouwer was going to hit a homer his first time up," said Bill Gibbons, Ocean View coach. "I know it was wishful thinking, but I was hoping for something like that to end the jitters right off the bat."
All season, Mater Dei was the type of team that gave opponents the jitters. The Monarchs took a 24-1 record into the game and had averaged 10.5 runs in two previous playoff games. Four starters--catcher Anthony Follico (USC), shortstop Bobby DeJardin (Loyola), third baseman Tony Gardea (Chapman) and Hulshof (Chapman)--had earned college scholarships.
But there was Taub, mixing a curveball with a knuckleball that he taught himself how to the throw, keeping the Monarchs off stride. Only Follico managed to master Taub, getting two hits and driving in the Monarchs' only run in the first inning.
"We didn't play like the team we were all season," Follico said afterward. "We were ready mentally, but they were a better team today."
The Seahawks collected seven hits off Hulshof (12-2), including two each by Tinke and Chess. Tinkle also made two outstanding plays that robbed Mater Dei of two hits, including a fine, backhanded stop of a hard smash by Monarch first baseman Ted Flores to end the game.
"David Tinkle was the Player of the Year in the Sunset League, and guys like that have to make the big plays in order to win in the playoffs," Gibbons said. "He did just that today."
Tinkle lined a homer deep over the left-field fence to give Ocean View a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, and then added a run-scoring single in the fifth for the Seahawks' final run. Taub, who retired the side in order in the second through fifth innings, took control from there.
"I just tried to keep them off balance," Taub said. "I'm not a strikeout pitcher, so I let them hit the ball and my defense did the rest. I tried to stay ahead of their hitters and avoid the walks.
"I had a feeling we were up for them, and then it was good to see us come out swinging and get the early lead."
Bob Ickes, the Mater Dei coach who led the Monarchs to a 4-A championship in 1980, said his players failed to get the clutch hit for the first time this season.
"We just didn't get the hits," he said. "Their pitcher didn't overpower us, but he threw strikes and they made the plays. We didn't want to see the season end this way, but we never got our offense going."
Mater Dei, which had won its two playoff games by an average margin of 7.5 runs, was shut out for the final six innings. The Monarchs failed to get a runner to second base after the first inning.
"We made a big double play in the first inning or it could have been over for us," Gibbons said. "Mater Dei is the type of team that likes to get a big, early lead, but that didn't happen today.
"On any given day, they could beat us. I'll take their infield and their catcher is outstanding, but I wasn't surprised that we won. There was more pressure trying to win the Sunset League than there is now."
If so, the pressure will be on the Seahawks in the semifinals on Tuesday. Ocean View (21-7) will meet league opponent, Fountain Valley, in the semifinals. Fountain Valley (19-9-1) advanced with a 7-2 win over Long Beach Poly.