Wolverines defeat Broncos to advance to CIF-SS quarterfinals

Bennett Gross

Harvard-Westlake defeated Vista Murrieta 5-4 in eight innings in the second round of the CIF-SS Division I playoffs.

After defeating the Broncos in the first round of last year’s postseason, Vista Murrieta, after traveling over 100 miles to O’Malley Family Field had this matchup circled on their calendar for months.

The Wolverines jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when Jake Suddleson ’16 scored on a fielder’s choice.

However, the Broncos responded by scoring two runs on a triple to left field. However, Harvard-Westlake ace Jesse Bergin ’18 stranded the runner at third to keep the score at 2-1 in favor of Vista Murrieta.

“I just got more comfortable with the surroundings and everything that was happening as the game went on, so it made everything a lot easier,” Bergin said.

In the bottom of the second inning, the Wolverines were able to take advantage of a miscue by Broncos’ pitcher Jake Moberg ’18 and even up the score at two on a Paul Giacomazzi ’16 sacrifice fly to right field. After loading the bases later in the inning, John Thomas ’16 struck out, stranding three runners.

The Broncos were able to regain a one run lead in the third inning, and added an insurance run on a wild pitch in the top of the sixth inning to make the score 4-2.

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Loren Franck ’18 doubled and was later driven in by Giacomazzi, on a single to right field, which also advanced Julian Girod ’16 to third base. Suddleson then promptly singled to centerfield to drive in Girod, knotting the score at four at the end of six innings.

Neither team was able to score in the seventh inning, forcing the game to go into extra innings.

In his third inning of work, Nico Mannucci ’17 set down the Broncos in order in the top of the eighth.

With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Matt Thomas ’17 doubled on a controversial call that he was safe at second on a bang-bang slide-tag play. Then, Girod popped a line drive over the shortstop’s head to drive in Thomas and secure the victory for the Wolverines.

“I don’t have the best average, I am not the best hitter on the team, but I work at-bats and make plays on defense,” Girod said. “That’s how I am valuable to this team. Every person on our team has a place. Everyone is important.”

Mannucci was credited with the win, Giacomazzi finished the day 1-3 with 2 RBIs and Matt Thomas and Franck had two hits apiece.

With the win, the Wolverines advance to the quarterfinals of the Division I playoffs and will play at Cypress High School on Friday at 3:15 p.m.

“This win just shows us that we are never down, and we can always rebound,” Girod said. “We saw that during league play against Alemany, we had a walk-off hit. You can’t count us out of ballgames, and now we have to go travel on the road, and we know that we can trust ourselves.”