IRVINE — To avoid the heat, the Sage Hill School baseball team waited in the dugout for the home plate umpire to arrive to Friday's game. He ran late because of traffic, which postponed the start time 23 minutes.
"Umpire just got off the freeway," Crean Lutheran Coach Jake Haney said to Sage Hill Coach Dominic Campeau, who expected his team to play at 2:45 p.m.
The scheduled time was 30 minutes before most contests Sage Hill plays. By the time the ump made it to the field at Cypress Community Park, it neared Sage Hill's regular start time to games.
When it began, Sage Hill stumbled. On a hit-and-run play, with a runner moving from second base, the batter, with a 2-2 count, took strike three. The catcher threw out the runner at third for an inning-ending double play.
Things unraveled for Sage Hill in the bottom of the first, Crean Lutheran scoring five runs, all the offense it needed to beat the Lightning, 5-2, and improve to 8-0 in Academy League play.
One bad inning most likely cost Sage Hill any chance of finishing in first place in league. With four games to go in league, Sage Hill is in third place at 5-3, three back of the Saints.
Crean Lutheran, which is 19-3-1 overall and the top-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Division 6 poll, stayed a game up on No. 10 St. Margaret's (7-1 in league), which defeated Downey Calvary Chapel, 15-4.
The Saints close out league with two straight games against Calvary Chapel and then two against St. Margaret's. Crean Lutheran and St. Margaret's are the only league opponents to hand Sage Hill losses.
The Saints, the defending league champions, topped the Lightning for the second time in four days. The conditions, while in the mid-90s, turned out much better than Tuesday's 8-6 affair at Sage Hill, where the Santa Ana winds created havoc, as well as Sage Hill walking 11 batters, hitting two, and committing four errors.
The mistakes Sage Hill made the second time around came in the first inning, the botched hit-and-run play, and Brett Super struggled finding the strike zone. Only Jonah Halverson and Paul Sardo collected hits in the Saints' five-run inning. Super walked in three of the runs, all with the bases loaded.
"It's often the case with Super," said Campeau of his freshman, who walked four and hit one in the first inning. "He's a young pitcher. It seems like every game he has one inning where he struggles, and then he works his way out of it. They're a good team, so they took advantage of it. He settled down nicely after that."
After the opening frame, Super (4-2) looked more like his name. He went four more innings, giving up a couple of more hits, while walking none, and finishing with three strikeouts.
The problem was Crean Lutheran's Matt Markus used his slider to jump ahead in the count. Markus (8-1) went the distance, striking out five and allowing two runs and five hits, with no walks.
Adam Ellingson recorded Sage Hill's first hit, leading off the fourth with an infield single. Kellen Ochi, who went two for three, brought him home with a double to left field. Ochi stole third base, his second swipe of the game and 24th of the season. Parker Reposa's groundout scored Ochi.
Ellingson, who went two for three, limped off the field after stealing second in the sixth inning. Brett Dunlavey came in as a pinch-runner, making it to third base, but Sage Hill stranded him.
"If we end up in the top four [in league], we'll make the playoffs," Campeau said. "We play Whitney twice next week. Hopefully we show up and get those two [wins]. We still have a chance for second place."
Crean Lutheran 5, Sage Hill 2
SCORE BY INNINGS
Sage 000 200 0 – 2 5 1
Crean 500 000 x – 5 4 0
Markus and Sardo; Super, Ochi (6) and Bush. W – Markus, 8-1. L – Super, 4-2. 2B – Ochi (SH), Sardo (CL).