May 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Irvine captures 2-1 walk-off win over Nogales and moves into quarterfinals Friday vs. Sonora

Elliot Jun of Irvine moves into second base with a double as Ethan Ortega of Nogales waits for the throw. (Photos courtesy James Tomlin, For OC Sports Zone)

Irvine High’s baseball team notched another milestone victory in the CIF Divsion 4 playoffs Tuesday afternoon.

This time, the Vaqueros used some dramatics in the final inning to pull off a comeback victory and advance into the quarterfinal round on Friday against top-seeded Sonora at Sonora. It’s the first time since 2001 Irvine has been to the quarterfinals.

To see the slide show, please click on the first photo

Second baseman Patrick Hackworth belted a deep fly to center field with the bases loaded and one out for an RBI walk-off single to lift the Vaqueros to a 2-1 second round victory over Nogales in front of another big crowd at Irvine.

“It’s a testament to our toughness and the fact we stay with it,” said Irvine Coach Gabriel Cota. “I don’t think it was by any means our best game but we had that mentality that we were going to grind until the end. We may not have had the best game, but it’s because they were so great. They were a really wonderful team and it was just a great high school baseball game.”

The game was tied 1-1 going into the bottom of the seventh.

Jackson Lyman led off with a single. Then Bubba Filia laid down a perfect sacrfice bunt and Lyman, seeing a chance to go all the way to third base on the bunt, took it. Nogales then walked Grant Lockwood and Casey Kudell to load the bases and Hackworth followed with his third single of the day to win it.

“It’s one of those things where you work on it from August and you say ‘if that guy vacates you’re going to take it’ and in that situation, I was just as shocked as everybody else,” Cota said of Lyman’s base running. “The guy vacates third base and he did what he was supposed to do and it was just instinct and he took over. All the credit to him. That’s on his own, it is the right read.”

Hackworth then got a chance to win it, capping a 3 for 3 day. He also scored a run and was hit by a pitch.

“I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball,” Hackworth said. “I was just trying to get the guy in and do my job and it worked out in the end.”

After five scoreless inning Nogales (20-7-1) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning. Ethan Ortega opened with an infield single and stole second. The Vaqueros walked Sam Mercado. Then Nathan Rodriguez delivered an RBI single to right center field off starting pitcher Leonard Memon to put the Nobles ahead 1-0.

But in the bottom of the sixth, Irvine (19-8) responded. Hackworth led off with a single and Memon sacrificed him to second base.

With two outs, Elliot Jun delivered an RBI single to tie the game.

“Lennie was doing great on the mound,” Hackworth said. “I was just trying to put the barrel on the ball and it ended up working out for us. Elliot then was just absolutely clutch and helped me score.”

Memon pitched the first six innings, scattering four hits and striking out six. Yoni Bracha came on to pitch the top of the seventh and retired Nogales in order, striking out one.

“He (Bracha) did his job; he came out and threw strikes and Leonard was what he has been all year, just amazing,” Cota said. “He’s just tough; that’s the best way to describe him. Nothing rattles him, he just goes and does his job.”

Nogales (20-7-1) also had a solid pitching effort from starter Devin Nunez, who pitched the first 5 2/3 innings. allowing one run and five hits and striking out five. Chris Guardado came on to pitch the sixth and Daniel Avena the seventh.

Irvine outhit Nogales 7-4. The Vaqueros also had scoring chances in the first, third and fourth innings but could not score.

However, Irvine, in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, responded in the final inning to advance.

“I’m excited for these guys and a great team like that, the way they play the game is so classy, and we’re just lucky we get to stay with each other for at least one more game,” Cota said.

-Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com