May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Estancia overcomes early deficit to earn a trip to CIF regional championship

Jack Moyer (left) and Andrew Mits led Estancia to a semifinal victory Thursday. (Photo: OC Sports Zone, Tim Burt).

Top-seeded Eagles improve record to 30-5 with 4-3 win.

Estancia High School’s baseball team had only trailed twice in the post-season going into Thursday’s CIF Division V Southern California Regional semifinal against Kennedy of Delano.

But the Eagles were faced with a three-run deficit going into the bottom of the third inning at Estancia.

The Eagles (30-5) responded with three runs and behind the pitching of sophomore Andrew Mits defeated Kennedy, 4-3, to advance to the finals Saturday at Estancia.

Top-seeded Estancia, the CIF Division 6 champion, will face the winner of the Anaheim vs. Baldwin Park game which will be played Friday at Anaheim. If Anaheim wins, there would be a rematch of the CIF Division 6 final which Estancia won.

“They hit well and they put up a strong fight but I knew at the beginning of this game it was going to be a battle and I couldn’t give up and fold under the pressure that was given to me, I had to just push through the battles and the physical pain as well, but I knew with the people behind me and the teammates keeping me accountable of taking my time, I was able to really trust them behind me and be able to throw it to them and trust my stuff to able to get it to these guys to back me up,” said Mits.

“I was really relieved at the end of the game because we put up a fight and we didn’t quit and that’s what we’ve been about this entire season.”

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

Estancia Coach Nate Goellrich was pleased with how his team responded.

“Two excellent teams, we knew doing our scouting on them they had a pretty good offensive team, to hit a home run in this park, that’s a tough thing to do so you tip your hat to that guy (Jude De La Cueva) hitting it out of here,” said Goellrich.

“I’m just proud of the way our guys battled back, to get down 3-0, it was only the second time we’ve been down in all the playoffs and the first time we’ve been down more than one run and for us to respond right away was the key.

“Getting three back right away put us in a great spot and I can’t say enough about Mits …. he battled through to throw us a complete game to get us ready for Saturday. It’s one of those games where you hate to see someone lose but I’m glad we’re on the right side of it.”

Mits (11-4) allowed three runs and six hits while striking out five.

Kennedy (22-8) scored the first run of the game on a solo home run by De La Cueva in the third inning.

“It was a good hit, it was a good pitch, I had to tip my hat and keep moving forward instead of letting it get to me,” Mits said.

The Thunderbirds went on to score two more runs in the inning on a two-run double by Ever Murguia to move ahead 3-0.

But Estancia battled back in the bottom of the inning.

James De La 0 drove home a run on a single and Kennedy made two errors on the play allowing another run to score. Cole Lefebvre then had an RBI single, one of his two hits in the game, to tie it 3-3.

In the bottom of the fourth, Mits led off with a double and scored on a double by leadoff hitter Jack Moyer to put Estancia ahead 4-3.

Mits then blanked Kennedy the rest of the way. With two outs in the seventh, Julian Orozco reached safely on an error but was thrown out at second to end the game.

The Eagles, including Moyer, then celebrated on the field as the large contingent of Estancia fans cheered.

“That hasn’t come very often this season,” said Moyer of his team trailing. “We usually start off the game ahead and keep battling all the way through but it’s a little bit different when they go up ahead and we come back.”

Moyer was excited to have the game-winning hit.

“I was just looking for something in the zone, fastball away hopefully, and that’s what he gave me, it was probably one of the hardest hit balls I’ve hit all season,” he said.

Now, the team gets ready for the regional final.

“We’re very excited, especially coming after last season coming off seven wins, this feels really good to be in the regional finals,” Moyer said.

Click here for Saturday’s championship schedule:

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