HUNTINGTON BEACH – A six-run first inning was more than enough cushion for Huntington Beach pitcher Jack Smith in the Division I baseball semifinals of the CIF Southern California Regional playoffs Thursday.
The senior struck out 12 to lead the Oilers to a 9-2 victory over Villa Park at Huntington Beach High.
The victory sends the Oilers (24-9) to the Division I final at JSerra on Saturday, June 4.
“It’s another day of baseball,” Smith said. “We try to go out there and do everything we can to win on the field. Today was my last game. I left everything on the field. I believe in my teammates all the time. They’re the best. They’re my best friends all the way through. I bet anything on this lineup.”
Villa Park (28-6) opened the game with a solo home run by Britton Beeson in the first inning to take a 1-0 lead.
Huntington Beach tied the score in the bottom half of the first thanks to a throwing error by Villa Park that sent Ralph Velazquez home.
The Oilers took the lead on an RBI single from Dean Carpentier that brought in Trent Grindlinger.
Huntington Beach added four more runs in the first inning, including two on a single by Tony Martinez.
“We found some holes in the first inning,” Huntington Beach coach Benji Medure said. “It was nice to give us a little cushion there. Their offense is prolific and we wanted to make sure we kept going throughout the game. We try to win innings every time. That six-run inning was huge.”
The Oilers added a run in the fourth inning with a solo home run by Aiden Espinoza.
Martinez drove in his third run of the game in the fifth inning.
Martinez went 3 for 3 with three RBIs. Velazquez went 2 for 4 with two doubles, Carpentier went 2 for 4 with an RBI, and Cade Hart went 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Smith threw 6 2/3 innings with only one walk and one earned run to go with his dozen strikeouts.
“You just go out there and try to compete,” Smith said. “I was just trying to give everything I can to win that game.”
Villa Park added a run in the seventh inning on a throwing error that sent pinch-runner Nathan Pone home, but left the bases loaded to end the game.
AJ Koedel went 2 for 4 with a double for the Spartans, who left nine runners on base.
Saturday’s final will be Huntington Beach’s second game this season against JSerra. Huntington Beach beat the Lions 4-1 on March 1.
Both teams are expected to pitch by committee Saturday.
“No matter who we play, it’s going to be fun,” Martinez said. “We’re just going to keep playing the way we have been playing. We’re going to throw a lot of guys that day, and I know they’ll do a good job that day and pounce on them.”