Owen Estabrook lets out a roar after touching home plate after his two-run homer in the fifth inning for San Marcos. The homer gave the Royals a victory over Westlake in the CIF-SS Division 3 semifinals.(Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

The history-making season by the San Marcos baseball team will include a trip to its first-ever CIF-Southern Section championship game.

The Royals accomplished the achievement behind a shutout pitching performance from Caden Hodina and a two-run homer by Owen Estabrook to defeat Westlake, 2-0, in the Division 3 semifinals on Tuesday at a packed Joe Mueller Field.

The Royals will face Aliso Niguel for the championship at Blair Field in Long Beach on Saturday at 4 p.m. Aliso Niguel beat Yorba Linda in the other semifinal, 1-0. 

This was the CIF semifinal debut for San Marcos (22-6), which won a third straight Channel League title this season.

Caden Hodina pitched like a playoff veteran, throwing a four-hit shutout and striking out seven. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

Hodina pitched like he’d been here before. He went the distance and allowed four hits while striking out seven to defeat Westlake’s USC commit Dylan Volantis.

Hodina frustrated Westlake hitters with a variety of off-speed pitches and breaking balls.

“This team hits fastballs really well, so I couldn’t throw that at all,” said Hodina. “That was a game plan, trying to not give them anything too good.”

He got soft contact throughout the game, allowing only one runner to get into scoring position, which came in the first inning. He struck out Westlake’s clean-up hitter Nolan Johnson to end the inning. 

Hodina said the bond the San Marcos players have is amazing.

“Last year’s team was like a family, but this year has been different. This team has been something special for sure.”

The Royal had the first serious scoring chance in the third inning as Steven Bradley and Hodina reached second and third with one down 

But Volantis was able to get out of the inning with a strikeout and pop out. The left-hander struck out 11 and gave two runs and six hits. 

Hodina continued to stymie Westlake’s offense. 

Owen Estabrook gets a low-five from coach Wes Ghan-Gibson as he rounds third after his two-run homer broke a scoreless tie in the fifth inning. (Gary Kim / Noozhawk photo)

“His ability to throw four pitches for strikes, keep competing and trust his defense and trust his best friends out there was huge,” said San Marcos Wes Ghan Gibson. “Really proud of him, it takes a lot of guts to get up on the mound no matter if it’s your home field or not, in front of this entire community.”

San Marcos loaded the bases in the fourth inning, but they were denied again by Volantis. 

The Royals finally broke through in the fifth inning as Estabrook went to the opposite field on a Volantis fast ball for a two-run homer.

“My first at-bats didn’t go the way I necessarily would have liked,” said Estabrook. “So, in that third at bat, I had seen all this stuff and I knew what I was getting. The last couple guys had been chasing first-pitch fastball, and I jumped on it, knowing it was going to be there.”

The San Marcos defense came up with a huge play in the top of the sixth as Bradley made a diving catch in the right-center gap to save extra bases from Westlake’s Dillion Marrisett. 

From there, the battery of Hodina and Estabrook controlled the seventh inning for the history-making victory. 

“Before the game we talked a bunch and pretty much mapped out what we’re going to do,” stated Estabrook. “(Hodina) went out there and just showed what he could do and trusted himself. He went out there, threw strikes and did his job.”

Ghan Gibson said his players’ drive to compete and play fearless goes back to fall ball.

“These boys worked their butts off and they deserve a shot at this.”

Garret Harcourt, Noozhawk CorrespondentSports intern

Intern from UCSB