Eagles win Division III

The 2020-21 interscholastic season finally wrapped up June 26 with a Southern California regional championship for the Granite Hills High School base­ball team.

The top-seeded Eagles, the newly crowned Division I sec­tion champion, employed a late rally to defeat second-seeded Riverside Arlington, 6-5, to cap­ture the Division III regional title and place an exclamation mark to the season.

The end of the season couldn’t have come sooner for many in­volved.

“It’s late in the year,” ex­pressed 20-year veteran Granite Hills head coach James Davis. “It’s been a long season. With the section and regional playoffs, we played 38 games. But it was fun. It’s always fun when you win.”

The come-from-behind win al­lowed the Eagles (28-10) to tie a school record with their 28 wins.

“We’re a power-hitting team,” Davis said. “I knew they were short on pitching. We had to stay disciplined. I knew that if we could stay close that we had a chance.”

That’s exactly what hap­pened.

Sophomore Andrew Rudd started on the mound for the Lions. He pitched the opening three frames and generally kept the Eagles off balance while getting the big outs when he needed them.

The game was scoreless through the opening two frames as Granite Hills senior Noa Pon­ciano retired the first six bat­ters he faced.

However, Arlington junior Ryan Cole cleared the right field fence with one out in the top of the third inning for a two-run home run to open scoring in the game. The Lions would push across two more runs be­fore the inning was over to take a 4-0 lead.

Arlington (23-13) tacked on another run in the top of the fourth inning on a two-out RBI single by sophomore Kael Cor­ridan.

Granite Hills got one run back in the bottom of the fourth in­ning on a solo home run by ju­nior Tanner Vielguth.

As it turned out, the Lions’ re­lief corps was unable to protect a 5-0 lead.

Ponciano settled down and allowed just one hit in the fifth and sixth innings.

The Eagles needed just one more inning to complete their somewhat improbable come­back.

Trailing 5-1 entering the bot­tom of the sixth inning, the hosts sent nine men to the plate while scoring six runs with two out.

Sophomore Camden Sos started the rally with a one-out basehit. Vielguth, the next bat­ter, struck out but junior Cody Macias followed with a double to place runners at first and sec­ond bases with two out.

The bases were soon loaded when junior Alex Gibaud was hit by a pitch.

Senior Joe Alegre took over on the mound for the Riverside team at this point. His duty on the mound was short-lived.

Alegre hit the first batter he faced, junior James Taylor, to bring in one run to narrow the Granite Hills deficit to 5-2.

The bases remained loaded for senior Austin Smith, who promptly smashed a two-run double to narrow the score fur­ther to 5-4.

“I got hold of a change-up,” Smith said. “I put it in the right spot.”

Runners remained in scoring position for the next Eagle at the plate, junior Spencer Davis, who promptly singled to score two more runners.

6-5 Granite Hills.

Smith relieved Ponciano to pitch the top of the seventh in­ning and the lefty delivered just what was needed: three outs.

“Coach Davis told me I was going in the seventh inning no matter what,” said Smith, who is headed to play collegiate base­ball at UC San Diego. “I knew I had to get three outs.”

“I can’t say that I’ve gotten a bigger hit,” Davis said of his game-winning single.

“It’s crazy playing high school baseball in almost July. We’re done … done.”

Ponciano (six strikeouts) re­ceived credit for the win to im­prove to 9-4 on the season.

Granite Hills finished post­season play 8-1 — 5-1 in the sec­tion finals and 3-0 in regional competition.

The Eagles faced elimina­tion three times in the section playoffs before preserving to advance to the championship game and then overcoming an early 2-0 deficit in the Divi­sion I final before prevailing 3-2 against Point Loma.

Granite Hills finished its championship season with a seven-game winning streak.

“We had some rocky games but over the course of the sea­son we came together as a team and believed in each other,” said Smith, who earned the save in last Saturday’s regional final. “That’s why we’re Division I and SoCal champions.”

Eagles win Division III

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