The scoreboard at Eddie Mathews Field read 1-0 in favor of the guests from Brea-Olinda, but Santa Barbara High baseball coach Steve Schuck didn’t feel like his team lost the game.
“They played a great game and someone had to lose. We didn’t lose, I think we just ran out of innings,” said Schuck after his Dons dropped the CIF-SS Division 4 second-round playoff game in front of a big crowd at their home field on Tuesday.
Santa Barbara played well. It got a solid complete-game effort from starting pitcher Liam Keithley and played terrific defense behind him. Third baseman Cal Wipf made three slick plays at third base, including a diving stop of a hard grounder with a runner on base in the second inning. Shortstop Dane Dawson turned a double play in the seventh.
“Wipf had a fantastic game at third, which is his natural position,” said Schuck. “Dane made good plays at shortstop. The defense was fine. It wasn’t that. It was the bats. We got out of our plan a little bit. I tip my cap to them.”
The Dons had a couple of scoring chances early in the game, but Brea-Olinda senior pitcher Owen Brown came up big to keep them off the scoreboard.
He induced a ground out to third to escape a bases-loaded jam with two outs in the first inning and picked off a runner at second base in the third inning to thwart another Santa Barbara scoring opportunity.
“Our second baseman put on the pick because on the first pitch (the baserunner) was very antsy at second base,” said Brea-Olinda coach Rich Pohle. “I think he was trying to steal the bag, so our second baseman, super savvy Tanner Lo, saw it and put an inside move and we got him out.”
Brown allowed only one more hit after the third-inning double. He recorded a three-hit shutout while walking three and hitting a batter.
“He pounded the zone,” said Pohle. “He was throwing two pitches for strikes, he was attacking the hitters and the defense played really well behind him.”
The Wildcats’ winning run was set up by Dustin Robinson’s crushing double into the right-center field gap to lead off the seventh inning. After pop-out to second base, Sam Dunbar hit a bouncing ball up the middle.
Santa Barbara second baseman Kai Mault dove to field the ball behind the second-base bag, but the ball took a bad hop and bounced into center field, allowing Brea-Olinda to break the scoreless game.
“That’s the beauty of this game and the agony of this game,” said Schuck of the bad hop. “It comes down to inches. A bad hop, or a missed call, it comes down to the most minute things. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they go their way, and sometimes it rains and we don’t play.
“They did what they had to do. They battled in the top of the seventh inning. They played a clean game, too. That was a really good baseball game.”
Santa Barbara ends the year at 14-14 while Brea-Olinda improves to 15-12 and advances to a quarterfinal game at Linfield Christian in Temecula.