IRVINE — Shaun Vetrovec took the mound at UC Irvine on Monday. Next year, he will be playing baseball for the Anteaters.
Vetrovec has one more high school season left before he puts on the UCI uniform. He represented Newport Harbor at Anteater Ballpark and his future college coach came out to watch him.
UCI Coach Mike Gillespie sat behind home plate, four rows up, and used a gun to track Vetrovec's pitches. Vetrovec began a little shaky, using 34 pitches to get out of the first inning. The right-hander allowed his first run of the season, and that is all he gave up to rival Corona del Mar in five innings.
Vetrovec improved to 3-0 on the season, helping the Sailors take the first game of the Battle of the Bay doubleheader, 7-3. The senior wasn't his sharpest, walking five and hitting two, but he struck out eight and allowed three hits, all singles.
In the second game, a fan began taking flash photography during Vetrovec's at-bat. The umpires stopped the game, and Evan Chalmers, Newport Harbor's coach, told the crowd to stop using flash photography because it can distract the pitcher.
A couple of pitches later, and with the camera no longer flashing, Vetrovec drove in his second run with a single to center field to give the Sailors a three-run lead.
The lead didn't hold up, as CdM took its own three-run lead in the third inning. Nevertheless, the Sailors rallied for a 9-8 walk-off win to sweep the doubleheader.
With the bases loaded and one out, Jake Genova came into pinch-hit. His sacrifice fly to center field scored Keith Marshall and the Sailors rushed the field to celebrate.
"It's a good start," said Chalmers, whose team improved to 6-1, before it opens Sunset League play Friday at Huntington Beach, ranked No. 6 in the CIF Southern Section Division 1 poll. "[The Oilers are] one of the best teams in Southern California, but we're feeling good about ourselves."
The Sailors are off to their best start in four seasons. They made sure the Back Bay programs didn't split the twin bill for the second straight season at UCI.
The Sea Kings are winless in seven games this season. Not much went right for them. They committed four errors in the first game and five in the second.
"It was sloppy baseball, not very smart baseball, and I can't even count how many guys we left [on base], how many strikeouts [we had] with guys in scoring position and one out," said Emme, adding that the 0-7 start is the worst in his 17 seasons at CdM.
This year's doubleheader had an inauspicious start. For the national anthem, Newport Harbor's players lined up on the third-base line and the Sea Kings on the first-base line. The PA announcer then announced no one would sing the national anthem. The Sailors' starters took the field and the Sea Kings went into their dugout to get ready to bat.
The Sailors stayed on the field for quite some time. Seven Sea Kings batted, and they only came away with one run. Vetrovec, who walked two and allowed one hit in the first inning, got out of trouble with his arm. He struck out three, the last two with the bases loaded.
This wasn't the only jam Vetrovec found himself in against CdM. He got out of bases-loaded situations in the fourth and fifth innings, each time unscathed. The last two outs in the fifth came on a strikeout and groundout, and the Sailors stayed ahead, 2-1.
After five innings, Vetrovec exited. He's only given up one run in 18 innings this season. He got some help offensively in the bottom half of the inning, with the Sailors scoring four runs. Rigsby Duncan and Jake Norton each singled in a run, and Cameron Jabara drove in two runs with a triple to left-center field to put Newport Harbor up, 6-1.
The Sailors jumped out to a similar lead in the nightcap in the second inning. Two errors by CdM helped, as did Vetrovec and Tk McWhertor, who in consecutive at-bats singled in a run apiece. Newport Harbor led, 5-1, but Ryan Pierce and Tyler Duncan began a CdM rally with singles in the third inning.
The Sea Kings ended up putting seven runs across, much of it because starter Liam Ogburn struggled with his control with two outs, walking in two runs with the bases loaded, and a wild pitch brought in another.
Ogburn left, and his replacement, Blake Pender, didn't last long. He walked the two batters he saw, one with the bases loaded and CdM increased its lead to 8-5. Jonah DiPoto came in with the bases loaded and fanned a batter to get the Sailors out of the inning.
The Sailors responded in the bottom half of the third, taking advantage of two errors to cut the deficit to one. DiPoto worked a perfect fourth, and by the time Chalmers went to Connor Seabold to start the fifth, Newport Harbor evened it at 8-8.