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BILL ALKOFER, STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Mission Viejo's Patrick Sandoval throws a pitch against Chino Hills in the CIF-SS Division 2 championship baseball game on Saturday.

Mission Viejo's teamwork pays off with D2 title

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

SAN BERNADINO - For the most part, Mission Viejo’s baseball team followed the same script all season: strong pitching, reliable defense and just enough offense.

That was good enough to earn the Diablos a spot in the CIF-SS Division 2 championship game.

In the final on Saturday, that same game plan helped Mission Viejo defeat Chino Hills, 3-1, at San Manuel Stadium for its second CIF title in school history.

Patrick Sandoval threw a complete game and struck out seven. The senior left-hander, who has committed to USC, allowed just two hits and one unearned run to cap a stellar season.

“This is the best group of kids I’ve ever been around,” Mission Viejo coach Chris Ashbach said. “This team played more unselfishly than any team I’ve been around in 18 years. They absolutely deserved to win.”

Chino Hills (21-9) scored first, in the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Elijah Greene. Huskies starting pitcher Bailey Falter retired eight of the first nine batters he faced with five strikeouts.

The Diablos (26-10) tied the score, 1-1, in the top of the fourth inning. Thomas Byrne hit a one-out triple to right field and later scored on a single by Matt Ryhlick.

“It’s always important to answer back,” Ashbach said. “Our first few at-bats of the game, we had a lot of swings and misses, and we didn’t have a lot of those this year. There was some anxiety in general.

“They kind of settled into the game and realized they could find the baseball a little bit better and did a better job.”

After the third inning, Sandoval retired 11 of the next 13 batters and allowed just one hit.

The Diablos took the lead in the sixth inning thanks to some help from the Huskies. After the first two batters reached base, a throwing error allowed the go-ahead run to score from second base.

Ryhlick followed the error with a sacrifice fly to center field to make the score 3-1.

Mission Viejo won its first CIF championship in 2011.

The Diablos set a school record with 26 wins this season despite having just two players currently committed to continuing their playing careers in college.

“I’ve never seen another team with as much heart as our team does,” Ryhlick said. “Every day, we go out and we work hard to be the best team we can be. Even though we weren’t the most talented team, we wanted it the most, and it showed.”


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