JSerra captures Division I regional baseball title over Ayala

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JSerra's baseball team gathers for a photo after winning the Southern California Division I championship game June 26, 2021.
JSerra's baseball team gathers for a photo after winning the Southern California Division I championship game June 26, 2021. (Luca Evans / For The Times)

Starting pitcher Eric Silva stood on the mound, glove and ball tucked under his arm, as San Juan Capistrano JSerra coach Brett Kay approached the mound.

Silva was at 85 pitches in this Southern California Division I championship game against Chino Hills Ayala. Runners were on second and third with one out in the sixth inning, the Lions leading 4-0. If Silva allowed a runner on first, Kay told him, he’d be taken out.

This was the last game of Silva’s senior season. The last of his team’s season. The last of the wild ride of restrictions that every program in Southern California had overcome. That ball stayed put in Silva’s glove.

“He didn’t want to come out,” Kay said postgame.

Silva went all seven innings in a 5-1 JSerra win to clinch the regional title, allowing a lone run via a sacrifice fly in that sixth inning before whiffing Ayala left fielder Ryan Moreno.

Silva gave up just one hit against a team that had batted .361 on the season, striking out 11.

After starting in JSerra’s loss to Studio City Harvard-Westlake in the Southern Section Open Division championship game last weekend, he wanted to redeem himself.

“I just wanted to be dominant on the mound,” Silva said.

JSerra center fielder Gabe D’Arcy went two for three with three RBIs to drive the team’s offense.

In the third inning, the Lions strung together a two-out rally that brought home three runs, capped off by a solo moon shot over the left-field fence by designated hitter Luke Jewitt, whose status was up in the air for much of the week because of a pulled hamstring.

Both teams were playing with “house money,” as Ayala coach Chris Vogt put it. Both had previously lost in the Southern Section playoffs and had another shot in regionals, thanks to Open Division semifinalists having the opportunity to advance. Harvard-Westlake elected not to participate.

It was a strange feeling to be playing games this deep into June, Kay said — normally, they’d be eight or nine contests into a summer slate. Seven JSerra players opted to end their seasons early and not participate in regionals, leaving Kay with 18 on the roster instead of his usual 25.

Yet after all those strange feelings the 2021 season has brought, JSerra stands alone on the mountaintop.It’s a spot Kay believes they deserve.

“I feel like we’re one of the best teams in the nation,” Kay said.

Softball

Camarillo defeated Westlake 2-0 in an all-Ventura County championship game to claim the Division I title.

Junior Natalie Yamane’s two-run home run in the fourth inning provided all the offense the Scorpions needed.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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