The Redondo and Santa Margarita baseball teams both began the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs with a wild-card game.
The extra round seemingly gave both teams an edge and a chip on their shoulders throughout the playoffs until they finally met Tuesday in the semifinals with a trip to Dodger Stadium on the line.
The Eagles scored three runs in the first inning and hit three home runs in the fifth to defeat the Sea Hawks 9-1.
Santa Margarita will face Norco in the final on Saturday.
“Both teams are super-talented, very deep across the board and for us to get to where we are it’s a privilege,” Santa Margarita coach Chris Malec said. “We’re fortunate to be able to play in the final game being a wild-card (participant). We looked at it (the wild card) as an opportunity to play an extra game and kind of continue to work on some things, and the boys have responded well.”
The Eagles (25-11) started the contest by having their first five batters reach base in the first inning against Redondo starter Jake Thau. They wound up scoring three runs, all without a hit.
Thau appeared to be under the weather, but he had a bounce-back second inning in which he retired the Eagles in order.
In the third, Connor Bane hit a solo home run to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead and Thau was replaced after the inning.
That was more than enough run support for Eagles starter Alex Schrier, who pitched a complete game, allowed one run on five hits and struck out six.
“He was great, hats off to them, they have great club,” Redondo coach Andy Diver said. “That guy (Alex Schrier) was really good on the mound today. You fall behind 3-0 against a good team and all of sudden all of the momentum and the energy in the stadium and the dugout kind of gets sucked out of you.
“That guy (Schrier) was just in a groove. We didn’t have a chance to break his rhythm.”
Not only was Schrier on his game, but the Eagles’ defense was as well. In the second inning, Milan Tolentino started a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and Michael Mira started a 5-4-3 double play to end the fourth.
“We squared a few balls up that were right at guys,” Diver said.
The Sea Hawks’ hopes for a comeback faded when the Eagles hit three home runs – by Tolentino, Bane and Ethan Flanagan – in the fifth inning for an 8-0 lead.
The Sea Hawks got on the board in the sixth inning when Brett McCauley’s groundout brought in a run.
“That one inning got away from us,” Diver said of the top of the fifth inning. “That’s the product of being at Redondo. We’ve been on the bigger side of more pop fly home runs to right. They hit a couple. … I think if we’re able to get through that first inning, I don’t know what the outcome would be, but I think the game would look a lot different.”