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Undefeated Santa Margarita baseball stays hot with walk-off win over JSerra

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA >> The Santa Margarita baseball team continued its hot start to the season Wednesday by grinding out a 5-4 win against JSerra at Santa Margarita High.

UCLA commit Logan De Groot drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Santa Margarita (11-0, 2-0) the walk-off win.

“For us to be able to start league this way feels really good,” Santa Margarita coach Chris Malec said. “This is a resilient bunch. At least half of our ballgames have been one-run games, so we are getting experience in these tight games. It’s good for us.”

Santa Margarita is ranked No. 6 in Orange County, and JSerra (6-7, 1-4) is No. 2. The Lions lost two of three games against No. 1 Orange Lutheran last week, and have lost two in a row to the Eagles this week.

The Eagles led 4-3 heading into the seventh inning. Andrew Lamb hit a leadoff single for JSerra (6-7, 1-4). He advanced to second on a wild pitch. Owen Fuller hit a sharp grounder to the pitcher and was thrown out at first. The Santa Margarita first baseman made a throwing error to third base, which allowed Lamb to score the tying run.

In the bottom of the seventh, Drew Rutter hit a leadoff single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Blake Wilson hit a single and Blake Balsz drew a walk to load the bases, and then De Groot drew a walk to drive in the winning run.

The Eagles began their three-game Trinity League series against the Lions on Tuesday night with a 6-2 victory. By also winning Wednesday, the Eagles have won their first league series against JSerra since 2014.

The teams finish the series Friday at JSerra.

Wilson and Stanford-signee Luke Lavin hit back-to-back doubles to begin the bottom of the first for Santa Margarita. Wilson scored on an error and Ian Grogan hit a two-run single to put the Eagles ahead 3-0.

Grogan went 2 for 3 with two runs batted in and made a leaping catch in the fourth inning to stop the Lions probably scoring multiple runs.

“Ian is a great athlete and a big time player,” Malec said. “He’s been varsity for three years here in football and baseball. Him rising to the occasion doesn’t surprise me one bit. He is a gamer.”

Cal commit Dominic Smaldino hit a two-run home run for JSerra in the second, and Lamb, a USC signee, hit a solo home run in the third.

Santa Margarita pitcher Sammy Cova settled down after the home runs. The left-handed Oregon signee allowed five hits over five innings with three strikeouts.

“He didn’t have his best stuff but he fought and battled,” Malec said. “It shows the maturity that he has. He is mentally tough, strong and was able to get us five strong (innings) today.”

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