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Esperanza Rolls Past Long Beach Millikan to a Section Title


ANAHEIM — Before Esperanza headed to Anaheim Stadium to play Long Beach Millikan for the Southern Section Division I baseball championship Saturday, Coach Mike Curran had his players watch a video of the 1993 title team's victory over Simi Valley.

"I wanted them to get a taste of what the winning feeling would be like," Curran said.

Suitably inspired, the Aztecs went on the field and steamrollered Millikan, 11-3, to win their third section championship.

Esperanza (25-5) broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth, scoring six runs to break a 2-2 tie. Esperanza also enjoyed a four-run sixth, two runs coming on Brandon Pack's triple.

"It started when we won the Elks tournament," Curran said. "Then we won the National Classic, the league and now this. Let me tell you, these guys can flat out play.

"You always hear talk of how to play the game. Bottom line is your kids have to believe it. And this team was extremely coachable."

Esperanza starter Nathan Choate ended his season the way he began it--unbeaten. Saturday's victory was his 13th, the third highest single season total in school history.

Choate, who gave up eight hits in six innings before giving way to reliever Matt Colin, said the 1993 video was never far from his mind.

"We also watched it before the first day of practice," Choate said. "And I felt, after that first day, that we had the talent to win it."

Shortstop Tommy Nicholson, who drove in two runs with a double and sacrifice fly, agreed.

"The core group of players have been together since our sophomore year," Nicholson said. "From Day 1 we believed we could do it."

The loss ended a wonderful run for Millikan (24-7), which entered the playoffs as a wild-card team.

"We had a tough road to get here, as a wild card and winning three one-run games," Coach Dan Peters said. "But we have no regrets. It's been a tremendous year.

"But we knew Esperanza could really swing the bat, as they showed in that fourth inning."

Rams' starter Randy Tymchak (10-3) gave up nine hits in four innings, five of them doubles. He got little help from his defense, as the Rams committed four errors.

Millikan used three first inning singles, the last by Tim Coltey, to get a quick run off Choate. But the Aztecs tied the score in their first at-bat when Omar Oregel doubled, went to third on Nicholson's fly to center, and scored when outfielder Eric Powell made an errant throw to the infield.

Oregel showed his speed again in the third. Reaching first on a two-out error, the senior second baseman cruised to second on a wild pitch, then sped home on Nicholson's double in the left-center field gap.

Millikan tied the score in the top of the fourth, but that would be the last time the Rams kept Esperanza close.

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