June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Northwood celebrates after capturing outright Pacific Coast League championship

Northwood players and coaches after winning the outright PCL title Friday. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Northwood High School’s baseball team had some unfinished business when it took the field for a Pacific Coast League game with Portola Friday afternoon at Northwood.

The Timberwolves had already won a share of the league title with a win over Portola Wednesday, but wanted to win the title outright.

They did that Friday, defeating Portola 6-1, in the final game of a three-game series. It’s Northwood’s first league title since 2013.

Northwood (20-5-1, 17-3-1) opens the CIF Division 3 playoffs next Friday, most likely at home.

“I’m so excited, this was the one goal going into the season to win league,” said junior Paul Grossman, who has been a standout on the mound and at the plate. “Every guy bought in and we competed our butts off this season. I’m really proud of our team. When one goes down, someone else steps up, everyone keeps passing the torch.”

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Beckman, which was in second place, needed Portola to defeat Northwood in order to share the crown, although the Timberwolves had earned the No. 1 seed from the league for the playoffs by virtue of their series win over Beckman regardless of the outcome of Friday’s game. Beckman advances as the No. 2 team.

“We really didn’t want to share league champs with Beckman,” Grossman said. “We really wanted to win outright, we knew we were the best team in this league and we showed it, we have the best pitching in the league and our offense produces, it’s best in the league.”

Junior Carter Liu, who pitched the first four innings, earned the win and got plenty of offensive support when Northwood scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning Liu allowed four hits, one run and struck out three. Andres Hernandez pitched the next two innings, allowing two hits and striking out two.

Casey Euper finished the game with a scoreless seventh inning, striking out one.

Offensively, Northwood was led by Colin Carlson, who was 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run scored, Luke Hansen, who was 2 for 3 with two RBI and a run scored, Kai Mo, who was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored and Jordan Kim, who was 1 for 3 with a run scored and an RBI.

Keyan Park, who was also the starting pitcher, drove home the only run for Portola with a single in the third inning driving in Naveen Trivedi, who singled to lead off the inning. Caleb Ho had two hits for the Bulldogs.

Northwood players poured out onto the field to celebrate the win with their teammates.

“It’s amazing we were able to pull it out,” said Euper. “Last year (as a senior), I’m glad we were able to get the win.”

Euper, with another scoreless inning, has not allowed an earned run in 51 innings with 83 strikeouts and has a 0.00 ERA.

“I just felt really good the whole year,” said Euper, who has committed to UC Santa Barbara. “I was able to stay consistent and I’ve got great defense behind me that’s helped. Our pitching has been amazing, Paul Grossman, Carter Liu and Andres Hernandez, we didn’t get hit by anybody pretty much all year.”

“It feels really good, we just grinded all season,” added Northwood’s first year coach Josh Keithly. “We had a mission, especially in the fall we were going to be league champs. The boys kept that mentality through the whole year and it was a privilege to work with them this year and they bought into some of the stuff we were doing and they found success, it was all them. It was a team league champ, that’s what it was.

“We got hot with the sticks and we pass the baton, one hit, one AB at a time and success follows.”

Keithly also wanted an outright title for the Timberwolves.

“We didn’t want a split, there was no way we were splitting, that wasn’t going to happen and we knew it today, we came out with one mission, one goal and I had no doubt we were going to secure it, we didn’t want the co-championship, we wanted it solely for Northwood,” he said. “It’s been about 10 plus years since we’ve done, it, so I really wanted to secure it, not only for the boys but for the program as well.”

Portola (11-13-1, 8-13) had some wins in the final weeks of the league season and made a run at the fourth spot for the CIF playoffs under first year coach Bryan Resnick.

“We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game, Northwood is a good team,” Resnick said. “That’s why they won the PCL, they got a few runs and separated the score too much for us to get back in it. We were playing the last game of the season with something on the line, that’s all you can ask for.

“I was happy with how we battled, we won some series, we won some close ball games. We didn’t have a ton of depth, the guys we had I think we battled and got the best of what we’re capable of.”

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