CARY, N.C.—Hans Hansen's three-hit shutout propelled Harvard-Westlake High (Studio City, Calif.) past Venice (Fla.) High 6-0 in the semifinals of the National High School Invitational. Harvard-Westlake advances to the championship game for the second straight year.
Hansen, a senior righthander, was thrust into the spotlight last year when the Wolverines lost Lucas Giolito to injury, and Hansen responded with a shutout in last year's semifinal against another powerhouse Florida squad, American Heritage. History repeated itself on Friday, as Hansen rarely faltered on his way to another whitewashing.
"That team can roll a five-spot on you at the drop of a dime," Harvard-Westlake coach Matt LaCour said. "The thing about Hans on the mound, though, is he does give you a sense of security as a coach because you know he's going to throw strikes and you know he's going to field his position well."
Hansen controlled the strike zone with his fastball and slider, making his living on the black. He struck out five, walked two and allowed just three hits. Venice only put a runner in scoring position once, in the fourth, but Hansen responded with a swinging strikeout of Tyler Atwell to end the threat.
While Hansen lacks the fastball to rear back and overpower opposing batters, his experience of being teammates with Giolito and Max Fried, a pair of first-round picks in last year's draft from Harvard-Westlake, has made a difference in how he attacks on the mound.
"He's got the mentality of a guy that throws 92-93 mph at times," LaCour said. "Growing up around Lucas (Giolito) and seeing the way he attacked the zone has rubbed off on Hans to a large extent. Even though he doesn't have the velocity that some of the big time arms out there have, he's got the attack mentality that really puts teams on their heels and causes them to make mistakes."
While Hansen was shutting down Venice, the Wolverines jumped on Indians starter Tyler Shambora for a run in the first on Joe Corrigan's RBI double, then added three in the fourth, keyed by Michael Vokulich's two-run single. The Wolverines put the game away with two more in the sixth.
Harvard-Westlake will await the winner of Friday's second semifinal between The Woodlands (Texas) High and defending champion Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.), which beat Harvard-Westlake in last year's final. When asked who they'd rather face in the final, LaCour gave a diplomatic answer about how both are great teams. Hansen was more blunt.
"I want to see Mater Dei, to be honest," Hansen said. "I want to give them something back."