May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Big rally in sixth inning lifts Northwood past Brea Olinda in CIF Division 5 playoff opener

Northwood players celebrate after Friday’s CIF playoff win. (Photos: OC Sports Zone, Tom Connolly).

For a good while on Friday afternoon it appeared that the Northwood High School baseball team was destined to exit the CIF playoffs after one game.

However, the Timberwolves came to life in the sixth inning and exploded for five runs to change the complexion of the game and came away with a 6-3 victory over Brea Olinda in the first round of the CIF-Division 5 playoffs at Brea Olinda.

Northwood advances to the second round of the playoffs and will host Nogales, which defeated Shadow Hills 3-0 on Friday, on Tuesday afternoon.    

A combination of running up against a tough lefthander, Ryan Carter, and hitting into two double plays to end rallies in the first four innings kept the Timbewolves scoreless. In the meantime, the Wildcats (15-12) pushed across single runs in the second and the fourth innings to take a 2-0 lead. 

To see additional photos, click on the first picture:

Northwood (14-15) cut the lead to 2-1 on an hustling infield RBI single by Eugene Miyata in the top of the fifth.

Brea Olinda then ran into some bad luck of its own in the bottom of the fifth. 

After starting pitcher Bobby Bangs gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, Bangs was replaced by Casey Euper, who gave up a single to Dustin Robinson to load the bases with no outs.

The next batter, JT Swain, hit a ball down the third base line near the bag that Timberwolves third baseman, Ahmad Kazi, fielded and appeared to tag the Brea runner, Tanner Lo, and the base. The other runners seemed confused by the play. Kazi then chased Christian Altamirano, who was on second base and broke towards third base, back to second base.

Kazi swiped at Altamirano in an effort to tag him out. It appeared Kazi tagged him on the back, however the umpire did not make a call on the play. In the meantime, the Wildcats ended up with two runners at second base, Robinson and Altamirano. Kazi then tagged Altamirano out at second base.   

After play was stopped, the umpires huddled with both coaches and explained the ruling, that both Lo and Altamirano were ruled out. The next hitter Justin Cabada ripped a single to center but Miyata’s throw to catcher Adam Harper at home plate was in time to tag out Robinson for the third out. The Wildcats had the bases loaded and no outs but failed to score.

“My job was to not allow any runs and keep us in the game,” said Casey Euper.  

Wildcats Coach Rich Pohle said mistakes and missed opportunities changed the tide of the game for Brea.

“Mistakes killed us today,” said Pohle. “After not scoring in the fifth with the bases loaded and no outs, Northwood blew open the flow gates in the sixth. It’s a tough lessons learned for us.”

In the top of the sixth inning, Northwood sent 10 batters to the plate and five Timberwolves batters (Jon Cilderman, Paul Grossman, Andres Hernandez, Miyata and Adam Harper) each produced an RBI as Northwood scored five times to take a commanding 6-2 lead. The key hits in the inning were Grossman’s pinch hit RBI single and Miyata’s RBI single which added an insurance run. 

“I wanted to put the ball in play and I was fortunate to come through,” said Grossman, a freshman.   

“I was called out on strikes earlier in the game and I knew the umpire had a big strike zone, so I had to protect the plate,” said Miyata. “I was looking for a fastball and I was aggressive. It was relief to get a hit in that situation.”

Northwood coach Doug Euper praised shortstop Andres Hernandez, third baseman Kazi and Miyata, the center fielder, for their spectacular defense.

“We made some great defensive plays; it wasn’t a perfect game but we kept grinding it out,” said Euper. “We’re playing with house money. After our terrible start to the season, the young guys have really come on and they’re so excited.”

Bangs pitched into the fifth and kept Northwood in the game.

“I was nervous when the game started but I overcame that and I put my trust in my defense,” Bangs said.

The Wildcats didn’t go without a battle. They loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and pushed a run across before Euper retired Jayden Pack on a fly out to center to end the game and secure the Northwood victory.

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports