June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Strong pitching lifts Orange Lutheran past Santa Margarita in CIF regional semifinal

Orange Lutheran Coach Eric Borba with players (from left) Gary Morse, Evan Wiley, Brady Murrietta and Derek Curiel. (Photos: Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone).

Orange Lutheran High School sophomore right-hander Gary Morse was nearly perfect as he threw a one-hit shutout to lead the top-seeded Lancers to a 3-0 victory over Santa Margarita in a CIF Southern California Division I regional semifinal Thursday afternoon at Hart Park.

Morse earned his sixth win of the season and lowered his ERA to 1.18.

The Lancers will be making the program’s first regional championship appearance on Saturday, hosting La Mirada Saturday at 4 p.m. at Hart Park.

La Mirada advanced to the regional finals with a 10-8 victory over Huntington Beach.

To see additional photos, click on the first picture:

Thursday’s game marked the fourth time Santa Margarita and Orange Lutheran have played each other this season, with both teams winning twice.

“I felt like I owed it to my teammates, especially the seniors, to go and pitch my best today,” said the 6-8 Morse, who threw his second career one-hitter. “It was my game to win and I didn’t want to come out. I got ahead in the count and I was throwing strikes and my defense had my back and they made it easy for me to pitch.”

The only hit Morse yielded was a lead off infield single by Brody Schmacker in the fourth inning.

The Orange Lutheran defense executed a 4-6-3 double play on the next hitter to foil an Eagles rally. In the second inning, the Lancers’ defense also shined when third baseman Wyatt Hanoian jumped high in the air to snag a line drive and quickly threw to first to double off an Eagles runner. 

Morse struck out five and only allowed one Santa Margarita runner to reach third base. In the first five innings, Morse only faced three Eagles batters and only four batters in the sixth and seventh innings.

“Gary is a special player, and I think today was the best game he pitched all season,” said Lancers Coach Eric Borba, who earlier this season earned his 500th career victory.

“When Gary came in as a freshman, we knew he was going to be a standout. In the fall of last year, we told him, ‘you’re our ace’ and he has not let us down. He has been consistent all season. I’m so proud of our kids and our staff and trainers. They have worked so hard and for us to be going to the regional finals is so great for our program.” 

The Lancers (27-7) pushed across a run in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead. LSU commit Derek Curiel doubled to left, took third on a Josiah Hartshorn single and scored on Brady Murrietta’s RBI sacrifice fly.   

“This means a lot four us to be going to the finals,” said Cureil, who had two hits, scored two runs, and had a stolen base. Curiel has started every varsity game in center field in his four years at Orange Lutheran. “We weren’t nervous at all. This was our goal.”

In the second inning, Hamilton Friedberg singled with one out, took second on a passed ball and third on a wild pitch. He then slid home safely when Evan Wiley laid down a well placed squeeze bunt, upping the Lancers lead to 2-0. 

Curiel singled with two outs in the fifth inning. He stole second and continued on to third base on the same play when the base sailed to the backstop. He then scored on an errant throw to second base by the Santa Margarita catcher and the Lancers increased their lead to 3-0.

Carter Enoch was hit-by-a-ptch to lead off the sixth inning for the Eagles (22-10-1). He advanced to third base following a wild pitch and a passed ball, but was stranded as Morse retired the next three batters on short fly outs, keeping Santa Margarita off the scoreboard.

“He (Morse) only made three mistakes all game,” said Eagles Coach Chris Malec, referring to the three batters Morse hit with pitches. “He kept us off balance and he did a phenomenal job and they took care of the ball. I’m still very proud of our guys. We were one of the last four teams playing this season.”  

Hayden George, Chris Saucedo and Ethan Russell each pitched well for the Eagles, allowing only four hits and striking out five. 

Note: Santa Margarita assistant coach is Nick Punto, a former Orange County baseball standout. Punto played in the major leagues for 14 years with six major league teams (Philadelphia, Minnesota, St. Louis, Boston, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s.

“I love it here at Santa Margarita; it’s a great program and I enjoy working with the kids and staff,” Punto added. 

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone