Hueneme's late rally comes up short in CIF-SS Division 7 baseball final

·4 min read

FULLERTON — All the intangibles that have earned the Hueneme High baseball team its first section championship berth since 1979 and its first winning season since 2010 were on display Friday.

There was grit, heart, resilience. The Vikings rallied from a two-run deficit to knot the score in the fourth inning and placed the tying runs aboard with one out in the seventh.

Everything was there except the happy ending.

Hueneme rallied to deadlock the game at 2-2 in the fourth, fell behind by a pair of runs in the seventh, then seemed poised for a comeback in the bottom of the inning. Instead, Baldwin Park relief pitcher Jason Martinez recorded back-to-back strikeouts, enabling the Braves to hold on for a 4-2 victory over Hueneme in the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 championship game at Cal State Fullerton.

There was muted silence and teary eyes for the Vikings at game's end. But coach Manuel Lara professed his pride in a group of players who brought an eight-game winning streak and a 17-9 record into the program's historic spot in a CIF-SS title game.

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Hueneme catcher Christopher Rodriguez tags out Baldwin Park's Christian Escamilla during the CIF-SS Division 7 title game at Cal State Fullerton on Friday, May 20, 2022. Hueneme lost 4-2.
Hueneme catcher Christopher Rodriguez tags out Baldwin Park's Christian Escamilla during the CIF-SS Division 7 title game at Cal State Fullerton on Friday, May 20, 2022. Hueneme lost 4-2.

"It definitely hurts a lot," said the first-year coach. "But our guys earned their opportunity to be here. We all would prefer the joy of winning. We would want that feeling. Instead, we're hurt, but at least our guys had their chance to be here and to fight for a championship.

"I couldn't be prouder of all of them."

Sophomore shortstop Luis Cervantez smacked a clutch two-out single in the fourth to pull the Vikings into a 2-2 tie, Mathew Carpintero helped fuel the rally with a key base hit and Abel Lopez notched two hits and was on base all four at-bats.

Lopez's single in the bottom of the seventh moved Jeremiah Garcia to third base with just one out. The stage seemed set for some Vikings magic.

"I was just trying to do whatever I could to help us win this game," said Lopez, a senior third baseman. "I wanted to give us a chance. It's tough to lose. We had a great season."

Lopez and Carpintero are part of strong senior class that clearly will leave the program in much better shape than when they arrived. Hueneme's last winning season was in 2010 when the record was 15-10.

There have been a pair of one-win seasons in the years since. The Vikings were 6-14 a year ago.

Carpintero is a standout wide receiver for the football team who lent toughness to the program.

"It feels good for what we did this year," said the center fielder. "We started out the season a little slow, but really came together as we went along. I'm happy to have been a part of it. Hopefully, the team will continue to do well."

Cervantez blossomed into a standout shortstop for the Vikings as a 10th-grader. He's looking forward to what's next.

"Hopefully, we can keep this going," he said. "We came a long way this year. We will have good players coming back."

Hueneme's season isn't done yet.

Lara said the Vikings will accept a berth in the CIF State SoCal Regionals. The pairings will be released Sunday.

Hueneme head coach Manny Lara holds the runner-up plaque after the Vikings lost to Baldwin Park 4-2 in the CIF-SS Division 7 title game at Cal State Fullerton on Friday, May 20, 2022.
Hueneme head coach Manny Lara holds the runner-up plaque after the Vikings lost to Baldwin Park 4-2 in the CIF-SS Division 7 title game at Cal State Fullerton on Friday, May 20, 2022.

"We want to keep playing as long as we can," the coach said.

Ismael Robles started on the mound for Hueneme and allowed six hits and two runs through four innings.

Baldwin Park got on the scoreboard in the first inning on a triple by Jordan Davis and a single from Christian Escamilla. The lead grew to 2-0 in the top of the fourth when Escamilla scored from second base on an infield single by Damian Andrade.

Hueneme mounted a comeback in the bottom of the fourth.

The Vikings loaded the bases against Baldwin Park ace Tommy Villanueva on walks to Robles and Joshua Jimenez sandwiched around a base hit by Carpintero.

Cervantez delivered a sharp single to right, plating two runs to tie the game at 2-2.

The score stood until the top of the seventh. Hueneme freshman Koa Cunningham pitched back-to-back scoreless innings, escaping a base-loaded jam in the sixth.

But he ran into trouble in the seventh.

A leadoff single by Jason Martinez and a one-out single by Escamilla placed runners on first and third. A sacrifice fly by Isaiah Ariza scored one run and a single by Villanueva scored another.

Hueneme’s Mathew Carpintero dives but can't make the catch against Baldwin Park during the CIF-SS Division 7 title game at Cal State Fullerton on Friday, May 20, 2022. Hueneme lost 4-2.
Hueneme’s Mathew Carpintero dives but can't make the catch against Baldwin Park during the CIF-SS Division 7 title game at Cal State Fullerton on Friday, May 20, 2022. Hueneme lost 4-2.

Hueneme used an error and base hit by Lopez to put runners on first and third with one out. Lopez stole second, putting both base runners in scoring position.

But Baldwin Park's Martinez, who had entered in relief with one out in the fifth, came up big.

He fired called third strikes past Robles and Christopher Rodriguez to finish off the victory and championship for Baldwin Park.

Loren Ledin is the Prep Editor for The Star. He can be reached at loren.ledin@vcstar.com or 805-437-0285.

This article originally appeared on Ventura County Star: Hueneme's late rally comes up short in Division 7 baseball final