May 30, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Tesoro adds regional title to memorable year with 6-4 victory over Fullerton

Tesoro players and coaches celebrate after winning the regional title. (Photos; OC Sports Zone, Tom Connolly).

Before Saturday’s Southern California Regional Division IV championship game, both Tesoro coach Tony Nieto and Fullerton Shaun Hill indicated it will be a game for all hands on deck and the depth of each team would be tested.

And their prediction was right on target as the Titans, led by Jackson Freeman’s home run and four RBI and clutch relief pitching by Joshua Ferry, captured their first regional championship in school history with a 6-4 victory over Fullerton at Tesoro High.

“It’s a great way to finish the season,” said Freeman, who was named player of the game. “It means so much to our program. We kept grinding it out.”

Clearly, at the start of the game, players on both teams were nervous, resulting in numerous walks, wild pitches and errors. The first two innings lasted 90 minutes. Both starting pitchers were lifted from the game before the second inning was in the books.

“It’s amazing to win a championship, but I have to admit when I first got out there I was nervous, but my teammate told me to take deep breaths and relax,” said Ferry.

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

Fullerton took advantage of Tesoro’ starter Coleton Dahl’s control problems in the first inning to take a 2-0 lead. Nate Norman walked with one out and reached second on Conor Sunderland’s ground out. Kyle Kim was then hit by a pitch.

Both runners moved up a base on a passed ball. Norman then scored on a wild pitch for the Indians first run. Andrew Violet followed with an RBI single to right. Dahl walked two more batters to load the bases, but Violet was tagged out at home, for the third out, attempting to score on a wild pitch.

The Titans (28-8) quickly tied the score at 2-2 when Jake Lambdin led off the bottom of the first with a single and Freeman followed by blasting his third home run of the season over the right center field fence to tie the game at 2-2.

“I hit a 3-2 curveball and it felt pretty good when it left my bat,” Freeman said.

The Indians (26-9) capitalized on a walk, an errant throw and a Nate Norman RBI sacrifice fly in the second inning to score two runs and build a 4-2 lead. But Tesoro battled back in the bottom of the second by sending 10 batters to the plate and scoring four times, highlighted by Freeman’s two-run double, giving the Titans a 6-4 lead. 

After the first two innings, relievers AJ Hernandez (Fullerton) and Ferry (Tesoro) took command and slowed the pace of the game. Hernandez pitched 4 and 1/3 innings and allowed one hit and struck out four. He did not allow a run. Ferry entered the game in the second inning and pitched five innings, gave up one unearned run and two hits while striking out three.

He was relieved by Lambdin after hitting Sunderland with a pitch to lead off the seventh inning. Lambdin then walked Kyle Kim and struck out DJ Garcia, pinch hitting for Violet after inheriting a 1-1 count, for the first out. After Sunderland stole third, George Papadatos hit a sharp grounder to third that Brandon Wooley fielded cleanly and started a game-ending 5-4-3 double play, propelling the Titans to the championship. 

“Joshua (Ferry) did a great job and we focused on our execution; it’s amazing,” said Lambdin.

“It has been a special season for us,” said Nieto, whose team defeated Fullerton two weeks ago for the CIF Division 4 championship at Cal State Fullerton. “We’ve had a lot of firsts, our first CIF title in school’s history, the program won its 300th game, it’s the 20th anniversary of the school and we won our first state championship. Ferry came in and really stepped it up for us and then Jake (Lambdin) did what he’s done for us all season and closed it out.”

Despite the disappointment, Indians coach Shaun Hill credited Tesoro.

“They beat us twice, so I have to tip my cap to Tesoro, they deserved to win,” Hill said.

Hernandez said, despite not winning, it’s still been a great season for the Indians.

“I transferred to Fullerton from Troy and it’s been a special year,” said Hernandez. “We played for a CIF and a state championship and I’ve bonded with a great group of guys.”

It was a fitting way for the high school baseball season to end with No 1 Tesoro battling it out with No. 2 Fullerton for the regional title.

—Tom Connolly, For OC Sports Zone