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Mission Viejo finally allows run but storms off with title

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

LAGUNA HILLS – One streak ended, another one lived on and it all ended with Mission Viejo claiming the league title.

The ninth-ranked Diablos allowed their first league run in 50 innings, but won their ninth straight league game, 6-1 over Laguna Hills, to clinch the Sea View League title outright on Thursday at Laguna Hills High.

“It’s great. We’ll take it,” Mission Viejo coach Chris Ashbach said of winning the title. “We’re proud of it, especially with how we started. It’s nice. It’s awesome.”

Mission Viejo (20-10, 9-3) started league play 0-3 before turning things around with a comeback victory at Laguna Hills (9-18-1, 1-11) on April 11.

“I wish I could bottle it. I have no idea,” Ashbach said of the winning streak. “I know that the guys have been playing better defense. We execute a little better on pressure baseball. Pitchers have just filled up the strike zone.”

That pitching has been the key component of the turnaround, as the Diablos hadn’t allowed a run in league since the fifth inning of an 11-inning win at San Juan Hills on April 20.

Jake Spillane threw three of the six consecutive league shutouts and started Thursday’s game with two strikeouts in a scoreless first inning.

“We’re very confident with (Tanner) Bibee and Spillane, (a) two-headed monster,” senior Zach Sanchez said. “We’re very fortunate to have those two that make it look so easy out there for us, make our defense work very little.”

Laguna Hills broke the scoreless streak in the second as Nick Madrid led off with a triple and scored on a sacrifice fly by Stephen Grant.

Mission Viejo came right back in the third as Mitchell Narasaki scored on a bases-loaded walk and Matt Austin came home on a sacrifice fly by Joey Castelli.

The Diablos scored three more in the fourth with back-to-back squeeze bunt plays by Justin Evans and Aaron Casillas and an RBI double by Austin.

Joey Garman slugged a solo home run in the fifth.


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