The power of three key pitch­ers

Hunt­ing­ton Beach’s play­off re­liance on a pitch­ing crew pays off with cham­pi­onship.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - ERIC SOND­HEIMER ON HIGH SCHOOLS eric.sond­heimer@la­times.com

Hit by a pie, soaked by cold wa­ter from an ice chest, Hunt­ing­ton Beach Coach Benji Me­dure kept let­ting his play­ers turn his bearded face into an ex­per­i­ment on what it would take to make his smile dis­ap­pear.

Noth­ing worked late Satur­day night, the eu­pho­ria wouldn’t go away af­ter a 3-1 victory over Ne­whall Hart in the South­ern Sec­tion Di­vi­sion 1 cham­pi­onship base­ball game at San Manuel Sta­dium.

“It’s un­be­liev­ably spe­cial,” Me­dure said. “It’s not an easy thing to do, and ob­vi­ously, in 107 years, we haven’t done it. So we just made his­tory, and th­ese kids know it and they’re pumped to be a part of it.”

The end of a more than three-month base­ball jour­ney this sea­son brought forth a new les­son for teams seek­ing the cham­pi­onship at the high­est level. And that is to have not just one or two re­ally good pitch­ers, but three.

Years ago, teams re­lied on one out­stand­ing player to pitch twice in a week dur­ing the play­offs and come close to throw­ing the 10 max­i­mum innings. Then it be­came im­por­tant to make sure the No. 2 pitcher was re­ally good. But now, the three-pitcher mantra is com­ing into play.

Hunt­ing­ton Beach won the Di­vi­sion 1 ti­tle with­out us­ing its ace, Ha­gen Danner, in the semi­fi­nals or fi­nal. He was in­jured. But its No. 4 pitcher, Mitchell Ko­vary, threw a shutout in the semi­fi­nals. And its No. 2 pitcher, Noah Davis, struck out 10 and gave up four hits in Satur­day’s fi­nal. The Oil­ers had an­other pitcher, closer Lo­gan Pouelsen, ready if needed.

“It’s in­sane the pitch­ers we have on this team,” Davis said. “Ev­ery sin­gle guy on our staff, I think, could be the ace on any other team.”

Hart also made it to the fi­nal by re­ly­ing on three pitch­ers in the play­offs — starters Jack Ral­ston and Paul Richan and closer Sean Ward.

In the City Sec­tion play­offs, Di­vi­sion 1 cham­pion Wood­land Hills El Camino Real turned to its No. 3 pitcher, Matt Mal­co­nian, who had two saves and a win in the four play­off games.

Maybe the Trinity League was giv­ing ev­ery­one a peek into the fu­ture by play­ing three league games a week this sea­son, forc­ing teams to come up with three qual­ity pitch­ers to be suc­cess­ful.

“I think a lot of teams will be go­ing to that model,” San Juan Capis­trano Ju­nipero Serra Coach Brett Kay said. “It’s good for high school sports. It’s de­vel­op­ing more pitch­ers.”

What a fi­nal day of high school sports it was on Satur­day.

In Clo­vis at the state track and field fi­nals, Michael Nor­man of Vista Mur­ri­eta ran the 400 me­ters in a stunning 45.19 sec­onds, ty­ing the na­tional high school record. He’s just a ju­nior — who one day is go­ing to find him­self on the cover of Sports Il­lus­trated.

In Irvine, Rachel Garcia of Palm­dale High­land struck out 24 bat­ters in 12 shutout innings of the Di­vi­sion 4 soft­ball fi­nal game be­fore hav­ing to come out in the 13th in­ning be­cause of an in­jury. Her team lost to Tor­rance, 1-0, but her in­di­vid­ual courage won’t be forgotten.

Sum­mer is now upon us, with bas­ket­ball tour­na­ments, foot­ball-pass­ing com­pe­ti­tions, all-star camps and com­pe­ti­tions ev­ery week­end. It would be nice if par­ents were to re­mind their kids to take a few days of va­ca­tion, be­cause rest is im­por­tant, and be­ing at your best when it re­ally counts is how cham­pi­onships are won.

Eric Sond­heimer Los An­ge­les Times

COACH BENJI ME­DURE gets soaked af­ter Hunt­ing­ton Beach won the South­ern Sec­tion Di­vi­sion 1 cham­pi­onship base­ball game. He also got a pie in the face.

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