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Esperanza holds off Marina in 7th to win 2-0
HUNTINGTON BEACH — Esperanza has made no secret what it is playing for this season. Just a year removed from losing in the CIF-SS Division 1 finals, the Aztecs are intent on making it back.
“We have big expectations for ourselves,” senior pitcher Scott Mason said. “We just want to get back there again. We have some unfinished business to do.”
Mason was putting in work Tuesday. The lefty ace stifled Marina in a second-round playoff game to lead Esperanza to a 2-0 victory at Marina.
The Century League champion Aztecs (21-8) will face Trinity League runner-up Mater Dei on Friday. A coin flip Wednesday morning will determine the home team.
“We’re hopefully hitting our stride,” Esperanza coach Mike Curran said. “We get three more wins, that’s all we need. They know what this is all about. We’re Esperanza High School. We got tradition.
“These guys want to be a part of that. The only way to be a part of that is to have success in the playoffs.”
Mason looked like the ace he was supposed to be all along, allowing just three hits and striking out four over 6 1/3 innings. He missed the first month of the season because of a strained ulnar collateral ligament and made just five starts, struggling as recently as the final week of the regular season.
But he said his focus has always been to prepare himself for the playoffs, one reason why Curran suggested the rough outing two weeks ago didn’t carry over against Marina.
“He doesn’t let that bother him,” Curran said. “He competes, competes, competes. That was beautiful. We needed that. He's the ultimate competitor.”
Mason allowed the first two Marina batters to reach safely in the seventh, the first time all afternoon the Vikings had two men on. He struck out the next batter before handing the ball to closer Brandon Luper, who immediately allowed a single to load the bases. Luper got the next two batters to pop up and strike out.
“I should have bunted with nobody out,” Marina coach Robert Marshall said. “I played a hunch and second-guessed myself. I’ll wear that one.”
Esperanza’s Kevin Viers broke a scoreless tie in the fourth with a triple to the right-center gap, scoring Nick Catalano. Viers then scored on a Brad Anderson groundout.
Marina (17-11) finished its season advancing one round further than it did last year, in Marshall’s second year at the helm.
“Being a young team, most of these guys are coming back,” Marshall said. “They got to feel the pain and learn from this. You got to believe you can beat anyone anywhere at any time.”