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(Previous ranking listed in parentheses)
(Through reported results of Saturday, April 6)
(Results from any games played on Monday, April 8 or later not included)
(Thanks to correspondents Chuck Nan for Orange County, Daniel Poulter for Northern California & Bill Hutton for CIF Central Coast Section for providing writeups & information)
1. (1) Lutheran (Orange) 17-3
Two-time defending champion Orange Lutheran took the field at the National High School Invitational (NHSI) last week in Cary, North Carolina and faced South Forsyth (Cumming, Georgia) in its first game. The Lancers used solid pitching and timely hitting to pace themselves to an 8-2 victory. Max Rajcic struck out 10 and allowed no earned runs to pick up his fifth win of the season. The junior UCLA-commit struck out all six hitters in the first two innings. Jasiah Dixon went 2-for-3, scored a run and drove in three. OLu then faced Desert Oasis (Las Vegas) in the quarterfinal on Thursday, prevailing 2-1 to earn a slot in the semifinal 30 minutes later. The Lancers were paired versus Monsignor Pace (Miami). This game turned out to be a 12-0 pasting by OLu to put them in the championship game Saturday. Jonathan Guzman kept his record perfect for the season, 3-0, and was the winning pitcher. James “Tank” Espalin had three RBI. In the championship game, OLu took on Harvard-Westlake (Studio City), a fellow California participant. Last season, in the only other recent head-to-head match-up, the Wolverines prevailed 3-0 in a non-league game. This time, the Lancers returned the favor, 6-2. In completely dominating style, OLu would not be stopped en route to their trifecta of titles in the tournament. All six runs scored came with two outs in an inning. Evan Adolphus was strong on the mound into the sixth inning against a potent lineup. Caden Connor was the offensive catalyst. He scored four runs and was named tournament Most Valuable Player after batting .700 with an .800 on-base percentage and nine runs scored in four games. OLu is now 15-4 (.789) all-time at the NHSI. Rajcic was also selected to the All-Tournament team. The NHSI title obviously makes the Lancers stronger as a state No. 1, but they’re not a strong No. 1 in their own county with JSerra having won the Boras Classic for SoCal teams in the previous week. Those two will play each other three times this week, starting on Tuesday.