Harvard-Westlake wins CIFSS title

It's goofy photo time for the Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood baseball players, who will be officially named as your State Team of the Year on Monday. Photo: Mark Tennis.

It’s goofy photo time for the Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood baseball players, who will be officially named as your State Team of the Year on Monday. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Triumph over Marina of Huntington Beach Friday at Dodger Stadium also will give Wolverines the final No. 1 state baseball ranking. Other CIFSS winners are Cypress in D2 and Serra of Gardena in D3.

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It would surely be a great high school baseball game between Harvard-Westlake of North Hollywood and St. Francis of Mountain View. The teams have played strong schedules and have nearly identical 28-4 and 29-4 records.

Unfortunately for St. Francis, Harvard-Westlake was in the No. 1 position of the Cal-Hi Sports state rankings heading into its CIF Southern Section Division I final on Friday night at Dodger Stadium and won its last game 1-0 over Marina of Huntington Beach.

Nearly one week after a highly-regarded junior pitcher, John Gavin, paced No. 2 St. Francis to the CIF Central Coast Section title, Harvard-Westlake showed it has a junior pitcher who’s big-time as well. The Wolverines’ Jack Flaherty not only ended with a six-hitter, he also drove in the only run he would need.

Sophomore Jackson Grayson, however, perhaps had the play of the game in the top of the seventh inning. With Marina’s Tyler Mildenberg at second base and one out, Grant Mayeaux came through for the Vikings with single to left. Grayson, who has often been inserted into left field in the seventh inning this season, charged the ball hard and came up with a strike to home plate where catcher Arden Pabst blocked it off and made the tag on Mildenberg.

The Vikings still had a chance since Austin Moore followed Mayeaux’s single with another one. But with two on and two out, Flaherty got pinch-hitter Bryan Perez to hit into a force play to end the game.

“This was about unbelievable performances tonight,” said Harvard-Westlake head coach Matt LaCour. “Obviously, Jack did everything. And Grayson has been doing it on defense all year long. What a throw. It was an unbelievable play at an unbelievable moment.”

The Wolverines broke through in the bottom of the third inning when Casey Rosenfeld led off with a single. He advanced to second on a bunt, stole third and scored on a liner by Flaherty that one-hopped Mayeaux, the Marina shortstop, then bounced into left-center field. The next batter, Pabst, drove a double into right field but Flaherty was tagged out at the plate on a throw by first baseman Jake Bauers.

“I didn’t make good pitches in that last inning, but the defense saved me,” Flaherty said. “Today was a tough game against a real good team. I didn’t know if he (Grayson) was going to get him, but I was praying he’d make a good throw.”

Austin Olivas pitched a strong game for Marina in his own right. He only allowed the one run in five innings and walked none.

Marina (21-10) had come out of the upper bracket of the CIFSS D1 playoffs, a bracket that was busted when top-seed and state/national No. 1 Mater Dei of Santa Ana was upset in its first game by Huntington Beach.

That Mater Dei couldn’t get through to the finals and that his team did and then won was an achievement enough for LaCour, although he and players celebrated after the game knowing where they’re going to finish in the state and in at least two national polls.

“No, the season couldn’t have gone any better,” he said. “We played with a huge X on our back all season. To get through the gauntlet we did was unbelievable. We had to beat a bunch of tough Orange County teams, all on the road, and we did it.”

Junior Nick Valdez, who had one of big hits of the CIFSS D2 final, is about to greet a fan while in the Dodgers' dugout. Photo: Mark Tennis.

Junior Nick Valdez, who had one of big hits of the CIFSS D2 final, is about to greet a fan while in the Dodgers’ dugout. Photo: Mark Tennis.

In the CIFSS Division II championship:
Cypress 5, Temecula Valley (Temecula) 0

Kevin Lillicrop took a perfect game into the fifth inning and ended with a three-hitter to pace the Centurions to their second CIFSS crown.

Lillicrop, a senior who took a 1.98 ERA into the game, walked none, struck out four and was backed by an errorless, often spectacular defense. On one sequence of back-to-back plays in the sixth inning, senior David Fletcher at shortstop and his freshman brother, Dominic, a centerfielder, turned in dazzling plays to thwart any hope of a Bears’ comeback.

Cypress (26-8), which may be able to finish as high as No. 2 in the final Division II state rankings, broke open a 2-0 game in the bottom of the sixth on an RBI double by Nick Valdez, an RBI triple by Stephen Lohr and an RBI single by Tyler Alamo. Earlier in the game, the Centurions scored on sacrifice flies by David Fletcher and Alamo.

In the CIFSS Division III championship:
Serra (Gardena) 8, Mira Costa (Manhattan Beach) 1

The Cavaliers joined the section title parade among teams at their school by rolling past the Mustangs.

Serra (28-5) also could finish No. 1 in the state in the final Cal-Hi Sports Division III rankings, but need current No. 1 Oaks Christian of Westlake Village to lose in Saturday’s CIFSS D4 final.

“We’ve kind of been like the boys in the background,” said Serra coach Wilbert Aaron about the school’s state and section success in football, boys basketball, girls basketball, boys track and girls track. “I’ve been joking with (Scott) Altenberg (football coach) and (Dwan) Hurt (basketball) that ‘Hey, we just want to be on the same stage.’ We have finally arrived.”

Junior outfielder Marcus Wilson got the Cavaliers going with a home run that curled inside the left field foul pole. He later added a two-run double. Senior Trent Hammond, who played at Mira Costa last season, also collected two hits and three RBIs. MLB draft prospect Dominic Smith walked three times (twice intentionally) and was the winning pitcher (9 Ks, three hits allowed in 6 1/3 inning). Junior centerfielder Denz’l Chapman also turned heads by a steal of home.

Mira Costa (24-12) was led by catcher Austin Henning, who had two hits and scored the Mustangs’ lone run.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. He can be reached at markjtennis@gmail.com. Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports

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