Laguna Beach finds spark to beat Savanna


LAGUNA BEACH - Laguna Beach coach Michael Blair bored it into Connor Basile’s head all season: Sprint to first on a dropped third strike — it’ll matter one day if you reach base.

That day came Thursday, when Orange Coast League champ Laguna Beach hosted Savanna in the first round of the CIF-SS Division 4 playoffs.

Basile fanned at a dirt-bound breaking ball in the third before vaulting out of the box to beat the catcher’s high throw. So, instead of having one runner on with two out, Laguna Beach had two on with one out.

Four batters later the Breakers had scored three runs for a commanding four-run lead. They eventually beat the Rebels, 4-2.

“I was pretty bummed when I struck out, you don’t want to let your teammates down,” said Basile, a senior first baseman. “But (Blair) has always told us, it’s one in a million, stuff happens.

“One thing leads to another, it’s momentum. I think (reaching on the strikeout) was a really nice boost right there, and I just did what (Blair) always taught us.”

The Breakers (16-12, 13-2) will play Patriot of Riverside on Tuesday. Patriot upset top-seeded Don Lugo on Thursday.

Four runs were plenty for Blake Burzell (6-5, 3.21 ERA), who carried a no-hitter into the fourth and finished five innings with two runs allowed on two hits, a walk and two hit batters.

He recorded five strikeouts and threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of the 22 batters he faced.

“He pounded the zone with strikes, he was able to throw the slider … in the spot that we wanted, able to locate his fastball very well,” Blair said. “Just competed and made pitches when he had to.”

Zak Kovacic went 2 for 3 with two RBI singles — one that scored the Breakers’ first run in the second and another in the three-run third. Dustin Angus and Alex Baker knocked in Laguna Beach’s other two runs in the third with a double and a single, respectively.

Savanna (11-14-1, 8-5), the Orange League’s third-place team, scored both of its runs in the fifth. Burzell plunked Aaron Showalter and Enrique Quinones to lead off the inning and Showalter scored on a wild pitch that bounced into Laguna Beach’s dugout. Quinones scored on a single from Jake Wilkerson.

Wilkerson also started for the Rebels. He finished six innings with four runs allowed on nine hits, a couple intentional walks and three strikeouts, including the ill-fated dropped third strike to Basile.

“The little things make a big difference,” Savanna coach Rick Parmenter said. “We definitely shot ourselves in the foot with a couple of little minor things.”

The Rebels traveled more than 100 miles Tuesday to beat Carpinteria of Carpinteria in a wild-card playoff game, which earned them a spot against Laguna Beach on Thursday.

“I’m proud of the guys for their battling today,” Parmenter said. “I really felt like they left everything they had out on the field.”

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