May 20, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Santa Ana’s memorable post-season run ends with loss in quarterfinals

Santa Ana players prepare to take on Desert Christian Friday. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Santa Ana High School’s baseball team had one of the most successful playoff runs for the program in quite a while, capturing two victories to reach the quarterfinal round of the CIF Division 7 playoffs.

The excitement was definitely building around the campus.

But Desert Christian ended the Saints playoff run Friday with a 5-2 victory. Desert Christian belted three home runs, two by Jacob Acosta. Nicholas Weathers had a three-run home run off Saints starter Cristian Nieto in the second inning to give Desert Christian an early lead.

Fans from Santa Ana turned out in big numbers to cheer on the Saints. Desert Christian was also supported by a large throng of fans.

“Today, we ran into a well coached team,” said Santa Ana’s first year coach Louis Oakley. “They put the bat to the ball and you got to tip your cap to them, they played a heck of a game and they got us.

“But the run we had bringing some pride and some joy here to the city and these fans means the absolute world to us. The run that these boys put together over the course of the season is beyond tremendous on their part and I’m so proud of them.”

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

Athletic Director Brian Lillie said he’s not aware of a Saints team reaching the quarterfinals in the past 26 years he’s been at the school and noted Santa Ana captured a CIF title in 1982 under Bill Ross.

Santa Ana (14-13-1) battled hard from start to finish.

After falling behind 3-0, Ian Ramirez reached on a single and with two outs, Peter Quinonez walked in the bottom of the second inning. Then Vince Centeno executed a perfect bunt single and Ramirez, who was running all the way, scored from second base.

“We’ve been working on our push and drags bunt and we had one of our dudes that we absolutely trust in that bunting situation, we pulled the trigger and it worked out,” Oakley said.

However starting pitcher Oskar Medina got the final out to end the threat.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, Centeno singled, went to second on a balk and scored on a single by Anthony Lopez.

But Santa Ana was held scoreless in the final two innings.

“I felt we were kind of crawling back, we put some pressure every inning, but then once again they played a very sound, defensive game and it seemed like none of our kind of in between hits fell and they made their plays,” Oakley said.

Lopez, a transfer from Saddleback High School, was 2 for 3. Centeno was also 2 for 3.

Nieto allowed four runs in four innings, but had six strikeouts, striking out the side in the first inning.

“We worked hard, we did our best and they just did good too,” said Nieto, a senior. “They had some good hitters. I’m just proud of my teammates for never giving up and even when the odds were against us, we just kept working hard, we didn’t care who was up against us, we did our best.”

Ramirez came on in relief in the fifth inning, allowing one run and striking out five. He struck out the side in the fifth.

Oakley said his players would be honored at the team banquet Friday night and pointed out they had plenty to be proud about. The Saints recorded playoff victories over Cantwell Sacred Heart 6-1 on the road and vs. Cornerstone Christian 3-1 on Tuesday at home.

Desert Christian (18-7) moves on to the semifinals to face Oxford Academy at home on Tuesday.

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