May 25, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Newport Harbor baseball players ‘trusted the process’ on the way to a CIF regional title

Newport Harbor players celebrate after winning the regional title. (Photo courtesy Newport Harbor baseball).

Newport Harbor High School baseball players and coaches have been savoring the school’s first CIF Southern California regional title since the Sailors defeated Oaks Christian 5-1 to capture the Division III crown on Saturday.

“I’m very proud of this group of young men,” said first-year coach Josh Lee on Sunday. “To come in this year knowing no title had been won since 1948 (a league title), and no real CIF runs in our program’s history, this is quite an accomplishment for them.”

In Saturday’s game at Oaks Christian, the Sailors’ Trent Liolios pitched the first three innings, allowing no earned runs and striking out three. AJ Guitron-Moore then pitched the next four innings allowing one hit and one run and striking out five.

Newport Harbor (22-12) was led offenisvely by Joey Wright, who was 2 for 3 with an RBI; Bryce Blaser who was 1 for 4 with a double; Liolios, who was 3 for 4 with a double, triple and two RBI; Austin Leuck, who was 1 for 2 and Elijah Haseth, who was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Newport Harbor outhit Oaks Christian 10-4. Oaks Christian won the CIF Division 3 title.

With the victory, Newport Harbor avenged a 3-2 loss to Oaks Christian in the CIF Division 3 semifinals.

Lee, who was an assistant under Burt Call at Mater Dei for three years before before becoming head coach at North Torrance for two years, had goals for the program when he took over.

“When I started here we spoke as a group about two things, number one raising our own expectations of what was possible and number two, working hard to lay the foundation for a new culture at Newport Harbor baseball,” he said.

“Reflecting on that, it’s a pretty great story of overcoming adversity, dealing with failure and trusting the process by putting the team before yourself. From the guys who played every game to our role players, this group was as unselfish as can be. As a coach it’s a beautiful thing to see young men being unselfish and genuinely caring for one another.”

Lee credited his coaching staff for their help. 

“As for individuals, first, I think the unsung heroes of this year were my assistant coaches Tate Caraway and Wyatt Hahn, they are the best around. They made every day fun for the boys and for me. We all learned from each other and having those two guys as my brothers doing this with me was just so special and I feel very blessed for that.”

A number of players stood out too, the coach said.

“Watching our three captains (Joey Wright, Bryce Blaser and Trent Liolios) grow as great leaders on and off the field made me extremely proud. Being able to see the on-field transformation of our right-handed pitcher Sam DiCarlo in these playoffs was amazing. He became unhittable in the biggest games when it mattered the most, and it was just a pleasure to witness Sam realize how good he can really be right in front of our eyes. 

“Each and every player on this team gets to say they were a part of the first group to make history like this, and they each deserve it. Again, their selflessness was so overwhelming it was just a pleasure to get to coach.”

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