Harvard-Westlake Clinches National Prep Crown

Harvard-Westlake High (Studio City, Calif.) moved up to the top spot in the last Baseball America/National High School Baseball Coaches Association Top 25 when Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.) was knocked out of the Southern Section Division I playoffs, then it secured the spot with a 1-0 win over Huntington Beach’s Marina High Friday night for the section championship at Dodger Stadium.

The win should secure the Wolverines’ spot atop the rankings and a national high school championship when the final Top 25 poll comes out.

The Wolverines were in the driver’s seat to finish atop the poll after Mater Dei’s loss, but it’s never an easy road in Southern California. After getting big playoff wins from righthander Conor Cuse, including the semifinal game, Harvard-Westlake called on ace righthander Jack Flaherty for the final.

Flaherty dominated on the mound, going the distance and striking out eight while allowing just five hits. He also drove in the game’s lone run.

After facing a bases load jam and escaping with a strikeout, Flaherty put the Wolverines on the board with an RBI single in the bottom of the third. Casey Rosenfeld led off the inning with a single, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and stole third base, scoring on Flaherty’s hit. Catcher Arden Pabst then doubled down the right-field line, but a perfect relay throw cut down Flaherty trying to score from first.

The long run didn’t seem to bother Flaherty as he struck out two batters in the top of the fourth.

The biggest opposing threat to Flaherty was Marina first baseman Jake Bauers, the No. 173 prospect on the BA 500. Bauers draws comparisons to Daric Barton as a first baseman with good feel for hitting. A Hawaii recruit, he went 0-for-2 with a flyout, walk and groundout. His walk came in the third when Flaherty pitched around him with two runners on before escaping.

Marina put together one more rally in the top of the seventh when Tyler Mildenberg got a leadoff single and advanced on a sacrifice bunt. Mildenberg then tried to score on a base hit to left field, but a perfect throw by Jackson Grayson and block of the plate by Pabst secured the second out. Marina added one more hit, but the game ended on a groundout to the shortstop with Bauers on deck.

A new Top 25 will be released on June 4, and it will be the first time a California team has finished at No. 1 since 2007 when Long Beach’s Wilson High was crowned champions. Before that, in 2003-2004,  Chatsworth (Calif.) High went back-to-back. Coincidentally, Harvard-Westlake head coach Matt LaCour was once an assistant at Chatsworth, but had moved on to his first head coaching job by the time Chatsworth claimed those titles.