June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

PHOTOS: Strong pitching helps Katella defeat Segerstrom in key Golden West League game

Katella’s Robert Barba takes a lead from first base before stealing second base in the second inning as Segerstrom’s Julian Hernandez tries to hold him on. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Katella High School’s baseball team used a great pitching performance from starter Nicholas Moreno and some key hits in the first inning to defeat Segerstrom 5-1 in a key Golden West League game at Segerstrom Friday afternoon.

Moreno, the ace of the staff, went the distance, allowing six hits and striking out five to help Katella (12-12, 6-2) move into undisputed second place in the league with one week left in the regular season. Katella and Segerstrom (10-11-1, 5-3) came into the game tied for second place.

Katella can earn a share of the league title if it can defeat league-leading Ocean View (18-7, 8-0) twice next week.

To see additional photos, click on the first picture:

Katella was able to avenge a 6-0 loss to Segerstrom in the opener of the series Tuesday night.

“The kids did a really good job of bouncing back from a tough loss the other day,” said Knights Coach Carlos Ayala. “We were down after that loss but these kids just came out, and it all started in practice, and they were determined, they were confident, they trusted themselves that we can do this, we can play against a very good team which is Segerstrom. And they gave it their best shot today and things came through for us.”

Katella scored three runs in the first inning of Segerstrom starter Zack Bretza. Kevin Reyes Mejia led off with a walk, Andrew Ureno singled and the runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Ben Villela. Hector Perez followed with an RBI single and Robert Barba delivered a two-run double to make it 3-0.

Segerstrom answered in the bottom of the inning. Bretza led off with a walk, went to second on a balk and scored on an RBI double by Anthony Quinonez.

Moreno then shutout the Jaguars the rest of the way. Segerstrom was denied a run when a runner was called out for leaving too early from third base in the sixth inning on an appeal play on what would have been a sacrifice fly by Nathan Nunez.

Moreno then retired the Jaguars in order in the seventh.

“He’s been our top pitcher all year long, he’s been the most consistent for us and most competitive for us, same thing, he wanted it today, he wanted to give his team the opportunity to compete and come out with the win today,” Ayala said.

Katella added a run in the third and another in the seventh.

Ureno led the Knights eight-hit attack, going 3 for 4 with two runs scored. Barba and Julian Bustos also had two hits and Reyes Mejia had an RBI and a run scored.

“I think it was a well played victory all-around today, our bats we’re alive today, we put up five in seven,” Moreno said. “I definitely have to thank my defense out there, they played for me, making plays and then five K’s, so it wasn’t all just me, it was my defense, I’m glad I have a beautiful defense behind me that doesn’t make errors.

“We responded well because we got shutout on Tuesday, so I think we came out alive in the first, wanting to hit, attacking the fastball and adjusting to the off-speed.”

Segerstrom got solid relief pitching from sophomore Isaac Acosta, who came on in the second inning and kept the Jaguars close, allowing a run over four innings and striking out four. Bryan Andrade and Vicente Najara closed on the mound.

The Jagars turned three double plays.

Segerstrom Coach Erasmo Ramirez credited Katella for a solid effort.

“It was a tough one but you got to tip your hat to Carlos and his squad, they came out with a purpose, with an agenda and they got it done,” Ramirez said. “They had a lot at stake. They know who they got next week, they know what the league match-ups are. Moreno pitched well, he made pitches when he had to. We had a couple innings where we could have made some noise, but it just didn’t happen for us.

“Let’s be honest, I think we’re hovering right around .500, that’s the way it’s gone for us this year. It’s been tough for us to form an identity as a team who can come out and figure out a way to beat a CIF (playoff) caliber pitcher. We told our boys that this is the type of pitching we’re going to see in the playoffs. We got to find a way to be able to beat kids like this and until that happens, the outcome is going to be exactly what we saw on the scoreboard. It’s not an easy game.

“We got to be a little tougher and we got to be better and we just didn’t have it today. But the good thing is we have two league games remaining and we will see where we fall and then look forward to the next step after that.”

Segerstrom finishes league with two games against Godinez. Segerstrom still could finish as high as second if it wins its remaining games and Katella loses two to Ocean View.

But Ayala said his players will try hard to finish strong and earn a share of the title.

“Ocean View should be undefeated and with our two losses, and if we take care of business and things go right, we will be league champs,” Ayala said. “That’s what we worked for all season, a league championship, that’s the most meaningful and we’ve given ourselves a chance to play for a league title.”

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