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JSerra does big and little things right in win

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO Ryan Pena provided the big blast Friday night for the JSerra baseball squad, but Kyle Stewart’s third-inning, eight-pitch at-bat left the greatest impression on Coach Brett Kay.

Stewart, a Navy-bound senior, earned a walk by battling back from an 0-2 count with one out and runners on the corners in the third inning, setting up Pena’s prodigious grand slam.

The top-ranked Lions went on to score five runs in the inning, ending an 0-for-5 drought with runners in scoring position, to outlast visiting Mater Dei, 8-5, in the rubber match of the Trinity League season-series finale.

“Everybody is going to see Pena hit the grand slam, and rightfully so,” Kay said. “But Kyle should get a lot of credit for that. … That at-bat may have been the at-bat of the game.”

JSerra (15-2, 2-1), ranked No. 3 in the nation by Maxpreps, avenged a loss to Mater Dei on Wednesday to win three of the schools’ four meetings this season. The earlier meeting this week was the first time this season an Orange County team defeated the Lions.

Kay said that while it’s early in league play, a win against a high-caliber club and his alma mater holds importance.

“I think playing them four times in a row and winning three times against a team and coaches I really respect is huge,” he said. “It’s really something that’s difficult to do.”

JSerra endured plenty of snags in the early-going en route to the victory.

A no-out, bases-loaded walk in the first gave the Lions a 1-0 lead, but JSerra failed to deliver in its next three at-bats, popping out twice and grounding out to the pitcher to end the threat.

Mater Dei (10-7, 1-2) grabbed a short-lived, 3-1 advantage in the third inning on three consecutive RBI singles from Bryan Call, Brandon Perez and Josh Stephen. The Lions, however, found their clutch swings in the bottom half of the inning.

With two runners on and one out, Stewart drew the key walk to load the bases. Pena, sitting on the first pitch, hammered the ball deep beyond the left field fence.

“I noticed they were starting me off with off-speed the prior at-bats throughout the week, and they just threw a slider that was left up,” Pena said. “I exploded on it.”

Jake Pries, a UCLA-bound senior, followed with a run-scoring single for JSerra. Pries later tacked on an RBI single in the fifth inning.


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