At Dodger Stadium, in May of 1981, Doug Urbach and his Kennedy High School baseball teammates won the Los Angeles City Championship.
Thirty-two years later, his son, Tyler Urbach ’14, has the chance to closely replicate that feat, with a few key differences: the team is the Harvard-Westlake baseball team, ranked number one in the country by last week’s Baseball America National Poll, and the title on the line is the CIF Division I championship.
A win in Tuesday’s CIF semifinal against Los Alamitos, the results of which were unavailable at press time, would have secured a spot at CIF Finals, set for Friday at Dodger Stadium.
Heading into yesterday’s game, the personal ties motivated third baseman Urbach to continue the offensive success he’s displayed in recent games, particularly in his team’s 5-0 victory over Santa Margarita Friday to advance out of quarterfinals.
“Personally I’d love to play there,” Urbach said. “My dad’s pulling for that, my mom wants that badly.”
But as much as his father’s long-ago accomplishment has compelled Urbach toward CIF Finals, so too has his desire to fulfill the year’s worth of work his team has put towards this moment.
“We’re all best friends, we kind of joke around, at school we’re all together and we really are a brotherhood,” Urbach said. “To get to Finals, it would just be reassurance that we put in the work from September to now, because we work so hard, even during the summer we play together.”
The team, a pitching powerhouse the past few years with Lucas Giolito ’12 and Max Fried ’12 last year then Conor Cuse ’13, Hans Hansen ’13 and Jack Flaherty ’14 this year, has been on an offensive tear as of late. In their final regular season game, the Wolverines defeated St. Francis 14-0, foreshadowing their 7-1 win over Valencia and their 12-1 defeat of El Dorado in the first and second rounds of playoffs.
Urbach attributes this success to his team’s preparation for competition against specific teams.
“We’ve really just been sticking to a plan. We have an offensive plan, where we all buy into whatever the scouting report is for that team,” Urbach said of the team’s strategy. “We have a lot of talented kids on our team and if we can all do that we can be pretty scary out there.”
An additional element that may tip the CIF scales in the Wolverines’ favor is the early postseason exit of rival Mater Dei.
The Monarchs, who defeated the Wolverines the past two years in the finals of the National High School Invitational and who held the title of the best team in the country two weeks ago, were upset in the first round of CIF playoffs by Huntington Beach.
Mater Dei’s elimination helped to clear the path to a CIF championship for the Wolverines, but ended any possibility of a rematch between the two teams any time soon.
Depending on the outcomes of yesterday’s semifinal games, however, the Wolverines may still have another shot at a rematch with a different team.
The Loyola Cubs played yesterday against Marina in CIF semifinals, though the results were unavailable at press time.
Loyola, in addition to being a perennial rival to Harvard-Westlake boys’ sports teams, nearly cost the Wolverines their third straight Mission League title.
Loyola had all but won the Mission League title outright a week before the end of the season.
The Cubs then lost two straight games, so that they had to share the League title with their Mission League rivals, Harvard-Westlake.
Regardless of their potential opponent, if the Wolverines make CIF Finals, they will do what they’ve done all season: focus on and believe in themselves.
“Really all season long Coach [Matt] LaCour has just been saying it’s not about them, it’s all about us, and that has been evidenced here in the playoffs,” Urbach said. “No matter who we’ve played, it’s really about how we play.”
If the team is able to maintain that mindset and the momentum that comes with a 25-4 record, a third-straight Mission League title and a number one national ranking, it may well bring home the first ever CIF title in school history.
It’s a significance not lost on Arden Pabst ’13, the senior catcher who has been on teams the last few years that have come close, but never reached that CIF goal.
“[Winning CIF] would mean a lot,” Pabst said. “It would be a big deal because that’s what I’ve been working towards for four years since I’ve been at Harvard-Westlake. It would be a lot of fun to bring that home.”