Wolverines’ last Mission League team alive entering second round

Tyler Graham

The first round of playoff baseball proved to be surprising for the Mission League. League champion Notre Dame was blown out of the water by Saugus 10-0. Runner up Loyola was stunned by Valencia 1-0. Alemany, the third seed from the Mission League, fell to Hart 3-0. That left just Harvard-Westlake— a wild card pick that had fought off Mater Dei just two days earlier— to prove their worth in playoffs despite splitting their league series with the Knights, Cubs, and Warriors.
And prove their worth they did. Trailing 2-3 to Vista Murrieta in the bottom of the seventh inning with two outs, center fielder Jake Suddleson ’16 hit a home run to tie up the game.

“Winning the seventh inning on the road is something we preach and something we practice a bunch,” Suddleson said. “Being in that situation wasn’t anything new to us, nor was it intimidating. The group of guys we have is so tough I would have been comfortable with anyone going up to the plate that inning. On my home run the pitcher just left the ball over the plate and I was able to put a good swing on it.”

Despite numerous chances on both sides to score in the next few innings, no runs were recorded until the top of the tenth inning when third baseman Cameron Deere ’16 hit a double. Suddleson hit a double to get Deere to third base and designated hitter Leo Kaplan ’16 hit the team’s third double in a row and brought the score up to 5-3. Kaplan then stole home, making the score 6-3.

The game was a big upset in CIF Southern Section baseball. Vista Murrieta was the top seed out of the Southwestern league and had home field advantage. The win was one of three upsets in the 16 games that were played that day. To top it all off, the Wolverines were a wild card pick and therefore had already played on Tuesday with their usual starting pitchers Deere and Gabe Golob ’16.Other starting pitcher Paul Giacomazzi ’16 started on the mound Thursday and had a solid performance.

After Vista Murrieta scored two runs in the first inning, Giacomazzi kept the Broncos scoreless for the next five and two thirds innings. However, he was pulled in the sixth inning with two outs and runners on second and third base, and Ben Geiger ’17 was brought in to close the game.

“At the end of the day, we put ourselves in the spot we are in,” Suddleson said. “We know that we are good enough to beat an team in this division as long as we go out and just play hard-nosed, Wolverine baseball. Any win is satisfying at this point in the year and right now we are just taking it game-by-game and put all of our focus on our next opponent.”

Despite a low playoff seed, the Wolverines are still touted as a team that could make their way to the CIF Division I final June 6. They sport a flawless non-league record and all of their league losses have come by just one run each game.

However, though they won the championship at Dodger Stadium two years ago under the leadership of pitcher Jack Flaherty ’14 and catcher Arden Pabst ’13, this year’s final will take place in San Bernardino at San Manuel Stadium, home of the Inland Empire 66ers, a minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

The Wolverines played El Dorado yesterday at 3:15 PM in the second round of playoffs. The Crestview League champions cruised through the first round, beating Tustin 6-0. Results were unavailable as of press time, but the game was live tweeted by @hw_chronicle and an update on the game can be read at hwchronicle.com.