East County Sports

Hot, hot, hot Patriots reach another final

The Christian High Patriots following the win on Tuesday. / CHS Athletics

2021 EAST COUNTY PREP BASEBALL

SAN DIEGO CIF DIVISION III PLAYOFFS

CHRISTIAN 4, SOUTHWEST (El Centro) 3

EastCountySports.com staff report

EL CAJON —- Considering the excessive heat which climbed to 103 degrees on Tuesday (June 15), perhaps the “home-field” advantage didn’t go to the Christian Patriots but instead to the visitors from the Imperial Valley: Southwest High of El Centro.

In the end, however, it was the hot ballclub that won, as the Patriots scored twice in the fifth to get even, then Will Carlock started the game-winning play with a tie-breaking bunt single in the sixth that brought around Vaughn Major (double) on an error, giving the Patriots a 4-3 decision over the Eagles in the CIFSDS Division III championship semifinals.

The triumph vaults the top-seed Patriots (25-4 overall) – winners of 16 consecutive games – to Saturday’s title game in search of the school’s seventh crown. They will meet the winner of the series between San Dieguito and Olympian. The finale will be held at Eastlake High, starting at 4 p.m.

The Mustangs of Encinitas stayed alive by whipping the Eagles, 11-2, forging a playback final on Thursday. While those two ballclubs meet in the heat, Christian will have a well-rested pitching staff prepared.

“I’m very proud of the boys today,” Christian High head coach Mike Mitchell said. “We were outplayed and out-coached but refused to lose and found a way to win.”

Shane Bailey pitched the first four innings for the Patriots, spinning four innings, while Aaron Shebloski went two innings to earn the win.

Josh Meekins threw a scoreless seventh for the save, striking out two to start the inning, then coaxed a fly to right after a pair of Eagle hits.

Senior Braeden Ross drove in a pair of runs to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth inning for Christian High.

“Today was just a battle,” Ross said. “It was really hot, and we were really low on energy for the first majority of the game. We did an unbelievable job of minimizing damage and turning up the energy later in the game. Vaughn Major came up huge for us with a lead-off (ground-rule) double in the sixth. Will Carlock and Eric Markowicz both had huge at-bats for us today that kept our rallies going.”Ross is hitting .462 this season with 11 home runs.

“I’m so proud of our guys for the season that we’ve had,” said the Cal State Northridge commit. “We’ve fought every single game we have played and given 100 percent every time out on the field.

“Our mentality coming into this season was championship or bust, and we’re one win away from completing it. I’m already so excited for Saturday, I can hardly wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The Eagles scored one of their runs after a diving catch in the outfield by Shebloski in the top of the fifth inning.

Christian trailed 2-0 in the fourth when Carlock drove in the Patriots’ first run of the game with a single.

“Going in we knew that Southwest was gonna throw (9-0 senior Derek Silva),” Carlock said. “We knew that he was gonna try to fill up the strike zone and we were gonna get a lot of pitches in the zone to hit.”

“But I think that today was a testament to the kind of team we are. We’re gritty and we’ll scratch and fight to win any way we can. We want to continue to play and swing the bat with the confidence and looseness that we’ve had throughout this 16-game win streak. We feel that we play better when we’re enjoying the game. Our phrase has been, ‘job’s not done,’ and we want to go and finish that job on Saturday at Eastlake.”

The Eagles led 1-0 on a home run in the second inning by senior Jose Perez.

The Patriots, including Xavier Farnum and Ashton McCurty, played some terrific defense in both the first and third innings, to cut down potential Southwest rallies.

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