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CIF-SS DIV. 1 BASEBALL QUARTERFINALS – Mistakes on basepaths keep La Mirada from having bigger innings against Orange Lutheran

May 15, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

La Mirada High head coach Jimmy Zurn must have felt like it was déjà vu when his baseball team hosted Orange Lutheran High last Friday in a CIF-Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinal game. Last season, also in the quarterfinals against Santa Margarita High, the Matadores scored three times in the top of the first inning, added one more in the second and led 4-1 until the bottom of the sixth when the Eagles erupted for eight runs for a 9-4 victory.

Last Friday, La Mirada scored a run in each of the first two innings before watching the Lancers put the game away with three runs in the third and fourth innings. The final score was, you guessed it, 9-4 and ended the Gateway League champion’s season at 23-7.

After a perfect nine-pitch top of the first inning from senior Walker Calvo, junior third baseman Maverek Russell crushed a solo home run over the right field fence. Then junior right fielder Kevin Jeon beat out an infield single and stole second before being stranded there. In the next inning, senior designated hitter Sebastian DeAvila led off with a base hit to right, went to third on a double from freshman second baseman Bear Calvo and scored on a sacrifice fly from sophomore Justin Torres.

But Bear Calvo would get caught trying to steal third and senior left fielder Tyler Primanto was picked off first after Gary Morse had walked him on a full count.

“We have all the faith in the world in our guys and we went up 2-0,” said Zurn. “We had a runner on third and I had a very good bunter up. That’s an inch away from staying fair and it’s 3-0. I felt good about our call; I didn’t think they expected it on the 0-2 pitch. Could have, would have, should have. That extra run is big when you look at how the game ended up unfolding.

“Again, it goes back to the whole big picture; you can’t do that against good teams,” he later said. “And those type of teams take advantage of that kind of stuff.”

Orange Lutheran, the third-ranked team who would fall to Harvard-Westlake High in the semifinals, took the lead for good in the third on a two-out, three-run home run from Josiah Hartshorn and matched that total the next inning.

The Matadores, ranked sixth in the division, tried to get back in their half of the inning when junior center fielder Travis Friend was safe on an infield single and stole second followed by a single to left field from DeAvila, who also would steal second. Two pitches later, Bear Calvo made it 6-3 with a base hit. But he too would get picked off for the second out, preventing another potential scoring opportunity.

After the Lancers made it 7-3 in the next inning, the Matadores scored their final run of the season when sophomore Noah Rodriguez, who had replaced Primanto earlier in the game, reached on an error and Russell singled to left, then reached on another error allowing Rodriguez to touch home plate.

“That’s one thing that we take pride in; we’re going to compete to the end,” said Zurn. “We compete in practice; we talk about it all the time. There’s no quit; there’s no give up and obviously they displayed that. That was as good as a hitting game that we’ve had. If you were to tell me we were going to have 11 hits and four runs, and that could have had more, I would have said we are moving on. But kudos to them. They’re a nationally ranked team for a reason.”

Orange Lutheran would seal the deal with two more runs in the sixth on four walks, a hit and a sacrifice. It would leave the bases loaded and eight for the game. Bear Calvo went three for three, Russell went three for four and DeAvila and Jeon each had two hits.

Walker Calvo, the ace of the pitching staff, went just three innings, threw 46 pitches and struck out four. He was replaced by freshman Luke Armijo, who tossed 61 pitches in two innings.

“We already had it in our plan,” said Zurn. “Walker has been battling some sickness at the back end of the year. He’s obviously given us everything he’s got, but he hasn’t gone super deep. He came out after the second and I asked him how [he felt], and he told me [he had] one or two more innings. So, that was our plan. If you would have told me we were going to have a one-run deficit in the fourth and turn the ball over to Luke, I’m okay with that.”

The Matadores went 10-4 against Division 1 teams, including a 2-0 win over Corona High, which will be playing in the championship game. The other three losses to division teams were by a combined four runs.

“It will take me a couple of days to kind of let it sink in,” said Zurn. “It’s very difficult to do what we just did. It really is. We’re starting in August; we’re travelling to every practice and every game. Us coaches…it’s not like we’re getting paid [a lot]. We’re not getting rich coaching. We do it out of sheer love for our guys. But at the end of the day, we are competing in the toughest tournament in America. And it’s not even close. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.”