June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Pacifica Christian loses to Azusa in program’s first trip to CIF baseball finals

Pacific Christian players get ready for Saturday’s CIF final. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

LAKE ELSINORE – Pacific Christian High School’s baseball team dream season took a turn Saturday afternoon at Lake Elsinore Diamond Stadium as the Tritons fell to Azusa 5-0 in the CIF Division 8 championship game.

Despite the loss, Tritons Coach Chris Gomez said he is extremely proud of his team.

“We’re a young team (Pacific Christian started six freshmen and three sophomores) and we ran into a buzz saw,” said Gomez, who played for eight major league teams during his 16-year major league baseball career. “I expect these guys to have jitters before a big game; I had jitters. Having jitters before a game like this is why we play the game. There’s no jitters for a last place team. We’ve gotten here in a very short period of time and these guys have a good shot on getting back here. I am so proud of them.”

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

Azusa ace Josh Torres dominated as the right-hander struck out 12, allowed only two hits and earned his ninth win of the season. It was Azusa’s first CIF baseball championship since 1983. Pacific Christian, which started its baseball program three years ago and won the San Joaquin League this season, was making its first CIF finals appearance.

Azusa (18-5) took advantage of several Tritons miscues in the first inning to build a 4-0 lead. Pacific Christian (22-7) was unable to get on track. 

“I had a lot of nerves last night and this morning we had a little trouble getting here with the bus, but once we got here, we were dialed in,” said Torres, a senior. “I was hitting my spots with my fastball on the outside part of the plate and my off-speed stuff had them off balance. After we got a 4-0 lead, it gave me an incredible amount of more confidence.”

Torres led off the bottom of the first inning and reached first on an infield error. He then stole second and scored on Isaac Miranda’s RBI triple, that sailed over the Tritons right fielder’s head, giving the Aztecs a 1-0 lead. Jake Elliot followed with an RBI single upping the Azusa lead to 2-0.  Oscar Rojas added an RBI sacrifice fly and Azusa added another run on a wild pitch.

“We preach to hit the fast ball and don’t let it go by and we jumped on it today,” said Elliot, who also added an RBI single in the fifth inning to close out Azusa’s scoring. “It’s amazing to win a CIF championship. We came together as a team and our banner will hang forever.”

Azusa Coach Albert Sanchez said his team will take great pride in their championship.

“From day one in practice in September, these guys bought in; our goal was to win a CIF championship,” said Sanchez, who played third base on Azusa’s last championship team in 1986. “I told these guys not too many kids get to reach this level and win a championship. It’s a great feeling and we felt we just couldn’t be stopped this season.”

The Tritons didn’t get their first hit and baserunner until Scout Escobedo’s one-out fourth inning single. However a few pitches later, John Coopman roped a shot to the first baseman who snagged it and turned it into an inning-ending double play for the Aztecs. Escobedo also got the other Pacific Christian’s hit, a seventh inning single. 

Escobedo said his team had a great season and they will learn from this experience.

“We had excellent chemistry on our team and we have three more years to build our program and get back here,” said Escobedo, a freshman. “Our future is bright.”

After a rocky first inning, Coopman, a sophomore, settled down and pitched well. He had six strikeouts over five innings and yielded only two hits after the first inning. Coopman complimented his pitching counterpart.

“He had a good slider and fastball and overall his stuff was really good,” Coopman said. “It was a great experience to play in this game and we’re going to continue to improve.”

Saturday’s loss was only the second time Pacific Christian has been shut out this season. Azusa recorded their fifth shutout of the season.

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone