LONG BEACH — Well now, that wasn't so tough.
Grace Brethren High, which kicked, clawed and fought its way to a baseball championship last season, did it the easy way Friday, dropping Rio Hondo Prep, 6-2, in the Southern Section Division VI title game at Blair Field.
Tim Thompson's two-run single blew open the game in the fourth inning, giving the top-seeded Lancers (22-3) a 5-1 lead and, ultimately, their second consecutive championship.
Last year, the Lancers lost in the quarterfinals but were reinstated because their opponent used an ineligible player.
Their coach at the time, Dan Pierce, resigned after the apparent loss and was not allowed by the school to return, leaving assistant Jim Thompson to guide Grace Brethren to the championship.
This year, the Lancers never trailed in a playoff game, never needed to panic and, to no surprise, never lost.
"It's much easier to do it this way," first-year Grace Brethren Coach Aaron Marcarelli said. "We wanted to prove it was the real deal."
Grace Brethren was nearly flawless on defense and turned double plays in the first and fourth innings to help Steve McClain (5-0), who allowed one run on two hits. Thompson pitched the final three innings, allowing one run on three hits.
"It's like, you've been here and you're more relaxed," said Thompson, a junior. "You don't expect anything new."
Rio Hondo Prep (17-7), making its first appearance in a championship, couldn't find its stride.
The Kares' troubles began in the top of the first inning, when leadoff hitter Jacob Blake pulled his right hamstring while running to first on a single.
The Kares also had defensive problems, committing three errors in the first two innings.
"We were real tight today," Rio Hondo Coach Chris Horton said.
"We could see it at the start."