Mater Dei takes Lions title

ANAHEIM—Santa Ana, Calif.’s Mater Dei High was on its fifth game and three days and out of pitchers when Wednesday’s Anaheim Lions tournament championship came around. So, the Monarchs started lefthander Seth Smith, who hadn’t pitched yet in 2008 and was a little nervous going into the game.

"I haven’t thrown off the mound in a while," said Smith, a 5-foot-10 junior outfielder. "When I was in the bullpen, I was still a little nervous, but when I got on the mound I blocked everything out and just went to work."

Smith used a low-80s fastball and low-70s curve to strike out eight Valencia (Calif.) High batters in five innings of work. Sophomore Cory Hahn came on for the final two innings to close the door with four strikeouts. The righthander, usually an outfielder as well, also had not pitched yet this year.

The Monarchs captured the championship by a score of 8-5 and were in the driver’s seat the whole game. They started the scoring right away in the top of the first when 6-foot-4, 205-pound junior Aaron Northcraft launched a three-run home run to center field.

Mater Dei increased its lead to 5-0 when senior Tyler Rahmatulla hit a laser into the right-center field gap and burned up the basepaths for an inside-the-park home run.

"I was just glad to give our team a boost," he said. "That I think was my second (inside the parker). I was pretty tired when I got to the plate."

The Tigers got on the board in the bottom of the third with three runs thanks to an RBI double by Michael Lopez and a single by senior outfielder Adam Bartczak. The third run scored on a miscue by Mater Dei’s left fielder on Bartczak’s hit.

Valencia had the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but Hahn’s sharp curveball was too much too handle and he struck out Keifer Neal to seal the deal.

"We had a pretty tough road," head coach Burt Call said. "We played extremely well and got great pitching throughout the tournament. We took it one game at a time, pitching our best guy each day, but ended up throwing two guys today that hadn’t pitched yet."