If it was just another game, as Mater Dei High School baseball coach Bob Ickes had suggested this week, why did Ickes have tears in his eyes Tuesday after the Monarchs' 2-1 victory over Ocean View in eight innings in the second round of the Southern Section 5-A division playoffs?
This was no ordinary game, however. About 800 fans jammed the backstop bleachers and lined the foul lines to watch Mater Dei (22-5) end a playoff jinx against Ocean View and advance to the quarterfinals against El Dorado (20-8) Friday.
The game ended when Mater Dei's Tony Pena struck out Ocean View's cleanup hitter, Mike Burns, with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Ickes' son, Rob, had the winning hit, lining a double to the gap in right-center field in the top of the eighth that scored Juan Zarate.
The victory erased the memory of a 4-1 loss to Ocean View in the 1985 playoffs, when Mater Dei was ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today. It also avenged a 3-1 loss to Ocean View last year that eliminated second-seeded Mater Dei from the playoffs.
Sorry, Bob, this was anything but just another game. He admitted as much afterward.
"After 15 years, you play some great games, but this one meant a lot," Ickes said. "Today was my 20th wedding anniversary and that was a great gift that our son gave us. This win meant a lot to the players, but we can't be satisfied now."
Rob, a senior catcher, feared the worst after Monday's practice that he described as "one of our worst of the year."
"We were too pumped up," Rob said. "They had beat us in two very good ballgames, but I never once thought we were jinxed. I got the hit, but if it wasn't for a perfect throw by Jason Kirrer to the plate, we would never have won."
Kirrer's throw got Ocean View's John Arnold, who was attempting to score after a grounder to second base in the fifth inning with the score tied, 1-1.
Mater Dei took a 1-0 lead in the third on right fielder Jim Bretzsold's home run over the 360-foot sign in left-center field.
Ocean View (18-10-1) tied the game in the fourth. Gary Christopherson hit a ground-rule double to open the inning and pinch-runner Curtis Bruce went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a perfectly executed bunt by Cory Colbert.
Mater Dei had scoring opportunities in the sixth and seventh innings, but pitcher Randy Karliner (7-3) kept the Monarchs in check and the game went into extra innings.
Pena (12-1) got his 22nd victory in the past two years, allowing one hit in three innings of relief.
In another 5-A game:
El Dorado 7, Arcadia 2--The Hawks (20-8) scored six runs in the third inning to break a 1-1 tie at El Dorado. Bruce Petillo, who had two hits, had a three-run homer in the third. Matt Luke and Greg Fise had run-scoring singles in the inning.