When playoff time comes in high school sports, watch the cliches fly. One goes like this: "The team that gets hot at the right time will win it."
How boring. How true.
Esperanza of Anaheim, which came into the Southern Section playoffs as the fourth-seeded team but still played an underdog role as late as the semifinals, proved that again Saturday night by capping a dominating run in postseason play with a 9-3 win over Fontana at Dodger Stadium for the 4-A Division title. Not so boring.
And if the Aztecs were not the hottest team, they certainly had the hottest hitter in Tom Redington, who went 2 for 2 with two walks and his 10th home run of the season. Even with advanced warning, there was little Fontana could do to slow him, and the rest of the Esperanza team, down.
"We knew coming in that they were the best hitting team we would see in the playoffs," said Steeler Coach Steve Hernandez, whose team came back from a third-place finish in the Citrus Belt League to beat three league champions in the playoffs and end up 19-8. "We felt we had to hold them to three runs to be in it, and we obviously didn't do it.
"Every scouting report we got said don't give him (Redington) any fat pitches and let him extend his arms. He extended his arms."
Before joining the Esperanza staff, Coach Mike Curran took St. Paul of Santa Fe Springs to the playoffs all six seasons between 1973-80, winning the league title four times, and compiled a 100-36-1 record overall. In this, his sixth season with the Aztecs, the numbers are almost identical: Four Empire League championships, a playoff berth every year and a 104-46-2 record.
They took a 24-3-1 record into Saturday's game, including a come-from-behind semifinal win over Simi Valley, the top-ranked team in the nation according to Collegiate Baseball. Redington's final at-bat in that game provided the margin of victory, and his first trip to the plate against Fontana gave Esperanza the early lead.
A 6-1 junior shortstop, Redington, the third batter of the game, blasted a 1-1 pitch from Fontana's Vinnie Mares about 10 rows up in the left-field bleachers beyond the 360-foot sign. That gave the Aztecs a 2-0 lead. His two-run homer over the fence at Cal State Fullerton had provided the winning margin over Simi Valley.
Redington wasn't the only one hitting for Esperanza. Right fielder Kevin Clancy, who made a great throw in the bottom of the first as Greg Colbrunn tried to go from first to third on a single, had three singles and two runs scored in his first four at-bats and catcher Eric Cox singled in his first two trips.