Esperanza High School had just defeated El Dorado, 1-0, Friday to clinch its fourth straight Empire League baseball championship, and it was time for Aztec Coach Mike Curran to reflect on his team's accomplishments.
"To win four straight Empire League titles brings me a great deal of satisfaction," Curran said. "This isn't any slouch league. You've got to be good . . . and have a little luck."
The Aztecs were good and lucky Friday at Esperanza. They scored the game's only run on an error in the third inning and then escaped a jam in the seventh by turning a double play.
Scott Tomko walked to open the seventh, and Golden Hawk Coach Steve Gullotti, fearing that Doug Yates would hit into another double play, signaled for a hit and run.
Yates, who had grounded into a double play in the second, lined a shot up the middle, but Esperanza second baseman Doug Saunders was in perfect position to grab the ball behind second base for the putout.
Saunders then tagged Tomko, who was standing on second, for the unassisted double play.
"We gambled and lost," Gullotti said. "If that ball was another two inches (up the middle), we would have had guys on first and third with no outs."
Instead, there were two outs and no one on base. Aztec pitcher Roger Weems then got Phil Nevin to fly out to center field, igniting a wild Aztec celebration on the mound and putting an end to an impressive pitchers' duel.
Weems, a sophomore right-hander who came to Esperanza last year from South Korea, pitched a three-hitter and struck out six to improve to 7-0. It was his first complete game of the season and improved the top-ranked Aztecs to 12-0 in league, 20-1 overall.
El Dorado's Steve Gill (7-3), a senior left-hander, threw a two-hitter and struck out seven for the sixth-ranked Golden Hawks (9-3, 17-4). Only one hit, Rick Pressel's double in the third inning, left the infield, but that eventually cost Gill the game.
Pressel doubled to right-center with one out in the third and advanced to third on Bart Goldman's ground out. Clint Holt then grounded to Tomko, but the Golden Hawk first baseman bobbled the ball and made an errant toss to Gill, who was covering the bag.
Goldman was ruled safe as Pressel crossed the plate.
"I couldn't ask for anything more than what Steve Gill did today," Gullotti said. "When you pitch that well, we should win."
Gill, mixing a fastball, curve and knuckle-curve, shut down the Aztecs, who entered the game with a .363 batting average. But Weems used a fastball, curve and changeup to shut out a team that had been hitting .360.
Cypress 9, Pacifica 7 (nine innings)--After blowing a four-run lead in the sixth inning, the Centurions (5-6-1, 12-12-1) scored two in the top of the ninth to defeat the Mariners (4-8, 9-11) at Pacifica.
Troy O'Leary and Ron Brown each singled in the ninth, and both runners advanced on Doug Lytle's sacrifice. Jeff Carter and Steve Winterburn then came through with RBI singles for Cypress. Brown, who relieved starter Jason Livingston in the sixth, was the winning pitcher. Cypress' Jason Friedman hit a two-run homer in the first.
Pacifica trailed, 7-3, going into the sixth but scored four runs on only one hit, Joe Bowyer's RBI single, and two Cypress errors. Three of the runs were unearned.
Loara 9, Katella 5--Katella (5-7, 11-14), which made four errors and allowed three unearned runs, drops into fifth place, a half-game behind Cypress and Los Alamitos. Loara (4-8, 14-9) took an early 6-2 lead and held off a Katella rally at Katella.
Los Alamitos 14, Kennedy 13--Brett Pagett was 4 for 5 and Kevin Wasikowski and Mike Kelly hits solo home runs for the Griffins (5-6-1, 9-12-1) at Los Alamitos. John Christensen was 3 for 4 with three RBIs, Steve Rath was 2 for 5 with an RBI and Brett Hepler was 2 for 3, scored two runs and had three RBIs for Kennedy (3-9, 8-16).