June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Cypress keeps Empire League title hopes alive with shutout victory over Pacifica

Cypress players (from left) Noah Johnson, Nick Montgomery, Jake De Laquil, Justin Tillar and Wyatt Rosales contributed to Tuesday’s win. (Photos: Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone).

Junior left-hander Wyatt Rosales pitched 6 1/3 strong innings and Nick Montgomery homered as Cypress High School’s baseball team kept its Empire League title hopes alive with a 4-0 victory over Pacifica Tuesday afternoon at Cypress.

The two teams play again on Thursday at Pacifica and the winner will claim the league title outright. The Centurions (17-10-1, 8-1)  have won at least a share of the league in every year since 2013, with the exception of 2020 when a title was not awarded due to the pandemic.  

Rosales earned his fifth victory of the season. He gave up three hits, struck out three and walked two. Garret Rodriguez came on in relief in the seventh with one out and two on and retired the final two Mariners batters to earn his sixth save of the season.

“I felt good and I wanted to finish the game,” said Rosales, who retired the first 10 Pacifica batters he faced to start the game. “I wasn’t nervous. I approached this game like a regular game. I felt like I had good control of my splitter and fastball and I knew my defense had my back. This win gives us a lot of momentum for Thursday.”

“My job is to come in and throw strikes,” said Rodriguez, who took the mound with runners at first and second and one out. “I was ready to come in at any time and now we have a chance for a league championship and it’s exciting.”

Justin Tillar led off the bottom of the third for the Centurions with a single. John Short smacked a ground rule double to left with Tillar stopping at third. Noah Johnson followed with an RBI single to give Cypress a 1-0 lead. Connor Artasere then laid down a bunt, but Mariners pitcher Matthew Futami quickly fielded the ball and threw to catcher Jayson Juarez who tagged Short out at home plate.

Futami then picked Johnson off at second base and got Antonio Lujan on a fly left to end the inning. Pacifica also had another outstanding defensive play in the first inning when right fielder Joshua Pearman threw a strike to Juarez at home to cut down a Cypress runner to end the Centurions’ first inning and keep the game scoreless.

“This was a huge game for us to win,” said Tillar, who had two hits and scored a run. “Wyatt has been blazing and he always gives us his max effort. We have a lot of confidence going into Thursday.”  

Jake De Laguil led off the fourth inning for Cypress with a single. One out later, Nick Montgomery blasted a two-run homer to left, his third of the season. The Centurions added another run in the inning and upped its lead to 4-0.

“It always feels better when you hit a homer in a game against your rival,” said Montgomery. “I was looking for something up that I could drive and I got a hanging curveball.”

The Centurions’ defense gave Rosales a boost in the fourth and fifth innings. The Mariners got their first two batters on base in the fifth, but Cypress pulled off a 6-4-3 double play (Jackson Pohl to De Laquil to Artasere). Rosales then struck out Connor Chavez to end the inning. In the sixth inning, Cypress executed a 4-6-3 twin-killing (De Laquil to Pohl to Artasere) to foil a Pacifica rally.

“We practice those double plays over and over and over again,” said De Laquil, who had a hit, scored a run and was on base twice. “Those double plays definitely picked us up.”

Cypress has won five games in a row and seven of its last eight.

Pacifica (18-7, 8-1) were shut out for the third time this season and had its five-game winning streak snapped. The Mariners have won nine of their last 11 games.

“Their pitcher did really well and they capitalized on a couple big plays and we didn’t,” said Pacifica Coach Mike Caira. “Thursday is going to be a fun game.”

Cypress Coach John Weber, who recently celebrated his 400th career victory, said Thursday’s game for the league title is fitting.

“On Thursday, it’s winner take all and that’s the way it should be,” Weber said. “The keys for today was Wyatt’s picthing and our double plays. Wyatt has been a magician, and I don’t know how he does it, but he keeps on battling even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.”

Lujan also had a strong game for Cypress with two doubles. Jacob Zanaboni had two of Pacifica’s four hits and also had a stolen base.  

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—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone