Orange Lutheran, just a week away from playing its first game in the super tough Trinity League, sent a message Friday night that it has the baseball skills and talent to be a title contender after coming away with a 12-3 victory over previously unbeaten La Puente Bishop Amat in the championship game of the Lerner bracket of the Newport Elks tournament.
Lutheran (5-0) didn't beat any ordinary team. Bishop Amat (4-1), ranked No. 4 by The Times, had knocked off No. 5 Mission Viejo Capistrano Valley, No. 7 Santa Ana Mater Dei and No. 8 Palm Desert in the opening two weeks of the season.
No. 6 Lutheran took advantage of surprisingly inconsistent Bishop Amat pitching. It started in the first inning when two walks set the stage for a run-scoring single by sophomore Andre Real. Then came a three-run third inning that featured a run-scoring single by Chase Harrison. The lead expanded to 7-1 in the fourth after a run-scoring single by sophomore Cody Nulph and a two-run single by Dillon Bryant.
Meanwhile, USC-bound left-hander Bobby Wheatley (2-0) of Lutheran limited Bishop Amat to two hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked four.
Last fall, Wheatley was Lutheran's starting quarterback until he suffered a shoulder injury in the third game of the season and ended his football career at the recommendation of his doctor.
"Back and better than ever," he said. "I've never felt more confident in my arm."
He's scheduled to start Lutheran's league opener Friday against Santa Ana Mater Dei.
"Everybody on the team is totally unselfish and we're playing great team ball," Wheatley said.
Coach Eric Borba got his 200th career victory. He's pleased with his team's start but understands the real season lies ahead.
"It's great to start hot, but we know going through the Trinity League is a battle," Borba said.
As far as Bishop Amat is concerned, playing tough teams is part of Coach Andy Nieto's game plan. The team is ranked No. 1 in Division 4 and heavily favored to win a section title, but he wants to test his players against Division 1 opponents. Next up is a Thursday game at USC against City Section power Chatsworth.