June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Laguna Hills powers past Irvine to capture Pacific Coast League series

Laguna Hills junior Nic Park throws a pitch Friday against University. (Photos courtesy Jim Tomlin).

Laguna Hills baseball team clinched the Pacific Coast League series with Irvine, defeating the Vaqueros 9-1 Friday afternoon at Irvine behind the solid pitching of junior Nic Park.

Park went the distance, allowing five hits and striking out four. His teammates supported him with a 13 hit attack to help the Hawks (4-2, 2-1) take two of three games from the Vaqueros (1-3-1, 1-2).

PCL teams are playing three-game series in the same week this season.

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

“I think the league this year is really even for the most part,” said Laguna Hills Coach Drew Hillman. “I think coming out and winning a series is really important. I’m proud of my guys. Because of the rain and the weather, we played the first two games at home, and then we ended up on the road today, so coming out and winning a series on the road is awesome.

“Our guys responded well from yesterday (Irvine won 3-1) and we got a great outing from our starting pitcher and we had great at bats basically one through nine today.”

Leadoff hitter Nate Medina was on base four times and scored three runs for the Hawks.

First baseman Damian Youngman was 2 for 2 with two RBI, including an RBI double in the fourth inning and a run scored for Laguna Hills, which moved out to a 4-0 lead with three runs in the third inning.

Irvine scored an unearned run in the bottom of third inning when Owen Song scored on a double steal with Nate Valencia who reached second base.

But Laguna Hills broke the game open with three runs in the fifth inning, two coming on a single by Hayden Yoast, who had two hits and scored a run.

“We did a great job swinging, we’ve really been preaching being on time for fastballs, and we executed some things early on and they put some pressure on some teams, I like the guys we have and we can surprise some people if we keep playing up to our capability,” Hillman said. “If everyone does their job, I like our squad.”

Besides notching the win on the mound, Park also had two hits and two RBI. It was the first start of the year for Park, who had made a couple relief appearances.

“I’m really proud of what our team accomplished,” Park said. “We came off a loss yesterday, but we bounced back real everybody did their job. This is my first time starting and I’m proud of what everybody was able to do and all the things they were able to help me out with. Normally, I would come out of the bullpen, but I’m glad I got this opportunity today.”

Nate Valencia led Irvine with two hits.

“It’s one of those where we got punched in the mouth,” said Irvine Coach Gabriel Cota. “You don’t ever want to feel good after a loss, but we’re dealing with so much adversity right now, we’re down five, six or seven players, that’s just part of life, it has nothing to do with the game, they absolutely outplayed us in every way. Because of the way is league is set up, you don’t have time to feel sorry, you just get ready for the next game.

“Some are injuries and some are guys just battling back, we’ll be OK.”

Cota was pleased with the win on Thursday.

“It was good for us, our boys definitely needed it,” Cota said.

Adam Valencia pitched the first six innings for Irvine to get the win, allowing an unearned run and also had two RBI. Alex Cho came on in late and made a diving catch in left center field and had a base hit.

Jack Flanagan came on in the seventh to seal the win.

Laguna Hills won the opener of the series, 2-1, on Tuesday.

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