Sunny Hills' surprising run ends in semifinals


TORRANCE – It didn’t matter where the final chapter was going to be played out for Sunny Hills’ baseball team. The Lancers were going to have a historic finish no matter what.

With the team playing in the CIF-SS Division 4 semifinals (its first semifinal since 1985) on Tuesday, one got the sense the team had already accomplished more than it could have hoped for.

Still, the Lancers fought on. They tried to rally after falling behind early, but a great defensive play in the fifth inning put them away, as South Torrance defeated Sunny Hills, 4-1, at South High.

The Lancers (21-11) trailed by three runs when Andrew Aguilar and Garrett Molnar produced back-to-back one-out singles. A wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position with Sunny Hills’ No. 3 and No. 4 hitters coming up.

After Jeff James was retired on a pop out, Connor Holz stepped in with two outs. He drove a liner into the gap in left-center. Spartans center fielder JB Guyton got a good jump on the ball, and as he left his feet, the ball landed in his outstretched glove to keep two runs from scoring.

“When they say defense wins games, they’re not lying,” Spartans starter Nick Beardsley said. “I watched (Guyton) catch that, and it was amazing.”

Beardsley (9-2) went the distance for South (24-8), which returns to the final after losing to Torrance last year.

James (4-4) struggled in his start, allowing four runs (three earned) and five walks in 12/3 innings.

Sunny Hills got its run in the fourth. James drew a lead-off walk, and Jacob Murphy singled him over to second. James scored when Taylor Carmona’s throw from third could not be handled at first.

“I am so proud of these guys,” Lancers coach Arlie Kearney said. “They have been incredible in the way they compete, the way they practice, and just the way they come out and perform.”

Christian Cano and Molnar combined for 41/3 innings of scoreless relief. Murphy led Sunny Hills’ offense with two hits.

“It’s something bigger than ourselves.” Murphy said of the Lancers making their first semifinal in 30 years. “We worked as a team. It’s awesome.”

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