A day that began with an overcast, gloomy sky in Orange County ended in sunshine and a pumped Ralph Velazquez of Huntington Beach being hugged and mobbed by teammates.
It was his two-run home run in the eighth inning that provided the decisive blow in a 2-0 victory over San Juan Capistrano JSerra in the Southern California Regional Division I baseball championship game on Saturday.
“I’m speechless right now,” Velazquez said. “I don’t know what to say. It’s the greatest moment with my guys. It’s crazy. It’s insane.”
Huntington Beach (25-9), a team that was eliminated in the semifinals of the Southern Section Division 1 playoffs, found a way to win it all behind senior pitcher Matt Lopez, who is headed to Northern Kentucky. He gave up seven hits in the first four innings but never wavered and left after throwing seven scoreless innings. Ben Jacobs got the save.
“I had to go out with a bang,” Lopez said.
First he matched Oregon State-bound Tyler Gough, who gave up two hits in six innings for JSerra. Then Vanderbilt-bound David Horn threw a scoreless seventh for JSerra. In the eighth, LSU commit Matt Champion took over. With one out, just as Velazquez got his barrel on the pitch, a strong breeze suddenly was felt. A fan yelled, “Go.” The ball carried over the left-field fence.
Watching from the dugout, Huntington Beach coach Benj Medure said, “I was going crazy in my mind. I was doing the Carlton Fisk dance to get it out.”
JSerra (25-11), the Southern Section Division 1 champion, wasted too many opportunities. There was a botched suicide squeeze and two double plays. JJ Hollins had a single, double and triple for the Lions.
Huntington Beach’s Aiden Espinoza had two hits, including a one-out single in the eighth inning before Velazquez came through with his home run.
“I looked up, ‘It has a chance,’” Velazquez said about what was going through his mind.
What an ending for an Oilers team that should be in contention next season with six returning starters, including Velazquez.
Newport Harbor 5, Westlake Village Oaks Christian 1: Trent Liolios had three hits to help Newport Harbor win the Division III regional championship.