May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

La Habra captures 14-3 win over Barstow in semis and earns first trip to CIF finals

La Habra players and coaches gather for a team picture after Wednesday’s semifinal victory. (Photo courtesy La Habra baseball)

La Habra High School’s baseball team is off to the CIF finals for the first time in school history.

The Highlanders (22-10), led by second-year coach Jack Brooks, defeated Barstow 14-3 Wednesday morning in the CIF DIvision 6 semifinals. The game, which was postponed Tuesday due to excessive heat in Barstow, was rescheuled for 9 a.m.

La Habra will face Elsinore (19-5) in the CIF Division 6 championship game Saturday at 10 a.m. at Goodwin Field on the campus on Cal State Fullerton. La Habra reached the semifinal round for the first time since 1999.

“Been a crazy two days but the kids adapted and the administration at La Habra really helped to put the kids in a good position to play well,” Coach Brooks said after returning with the team on a two and a half hour trip.

The trip home included a stop at a well known hamburger place which made the already jubilant players even happier, the coach said.

A number of players stood out Wednesday.

“Matt Coats was incredible, he went went five strong (innings) for his eighth win of the year and also went 4 for 4 with two RBI at the plate,” Brooks said.

Adrian Diaz was 3 for 3 with three RBI, Jesse Lopez was 3 for 5 with two runs scored and David Shackelford was 2 for 4 to lead the Highlanders offense.

Brooks took over the program last year during a season that was shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.

But he said he was optimistic when he took over the program.

“I knew we had a bunch of kids who wanted to win,” he said. “I took the job at La Habra because I knew stuff like this is possible every year at this school because of the type of kids that come to school here and the support from the administration and the community.”

The Highlanders have had outstanding starting pitching from Coats (8-2), the co-pitcher of the year in the Freeway League. He has thrown six complete games and two shutouts.

The other league co-pitcher of the year is Josh Castillo, who in 67 1/3 innings has 75 strikeouts and a 10-4 record with one complete game and one shutout.

Offensively, La Habra is led by Shackelford, who was batting .366 with 26 RBI and 22 stolen bases; Matt Flores, who was batting .333 with 22 runs scored and 21 stolen bases; and Jesse Lopez, who was batting .341 with 25 runs scored and 25 stolen bases before Wednesday’s game.

La Habra will be the designated home team Saturday.

The Division 6 title game is one of four at Cal State Fullerton on Saturday.

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