It's hard to think of Tustin as a surprise team this baseball season, since the Tillers won a Southern Section title two years ago and back-to-back Sea View League titles. But most of that team has graduated, the Tillers have moved to the Golden West League and Tustin was expected to take a back seat this season to Servite and Westminster.
But after Wednesday's 12-3 romp over Saddleback, the Tillers are in a familiar spot--first place (tied with Westminster) with a 9-2-1 record, 5-1 in league. And the junior-laden roster seems bent on solidifying the recent foundation laid before it.
"We can still self-destruct at times, like we did against Mater Dei," said Tustin Coach Tim O'Donoghue, referring to the Tillers' loss in the Newport Elks tournament championship game. "And Westminster and Servite should be favored. We're just underdogs trying to survive. But there's an old adage that you beat the game and not yourself. If you can do the fundamental things, you can be successful."
Beating themselves has plagued the Roadrunners (4-7, 1-5) this season. Wednesday's outing was typical.
Saddleback took a 1-0 lead in the first on a leadoff triple by Alex Arreola and a double off the right-field fence by Eddie Mejia. But the Roadrunners gave it back on an error, a balk and an RBI double by Rick Gonzalez, who later drove in another runs.
Roadrunner starter Joel Ramirez (2-4) was hurt by some shaky outfield defense and a wild pitch during Tustin's four-run fifth inning. But the \o7 coup de grace \f7 came an inning later, when Saddleback shortstop Gary Critchfield had a possible double-play grounder roll through his legs with the bases loaded. All three runs scored.
"Little things happen, and the next thing you know the game is out of hand," Saddleback Coach Bob Mangram said. "There is some talent here, and it's just a matter of us finding out what we can do."
Tiller starter Jason Milliman went the distance, giving up seven hits in his fifth victory without a loss.