Stephen makes sure Mater Dei gets much-needed win
SANTA ANA – The setting sun might have served as a metaphor for the playoff hopes of Mater Dei’s baseball team.
Down by a run in the sixth inning, the Monarchs were holding out for a ray of hope that could save their season. They got one in the biggest of spots.
Josh Stephen drove in two runs with a two-out, bases-loaded double in the sixth, and the Monarchs rallied past No. 3 Orange Lutheran, 7-6, Wednesday in a Trinity League game at Mater Dei High.
Mater Dei (13-11, 6-5) forged a three-way tie for second place in the Trinity League with the Lancers (17-7, 6-5) and Santa Margarita (18-8, 6-5).
“Dropping the game yesterday, we were kind of in that must-win mode,” said Monarchs coach Burt Call, whose team lost to Orange Lutheran, 6-0, on Tuesday. “I think we’ve been in it for a couple of weeks now. I think our kids are responding, and we’re playing pretty decent.”
The left-handed hitting Stephen served a liner to the opposite-field gap after the Lancers' Zach Busalacchi had struck out Michael Peabody and Maxwell Foxcroft with the bases full. The Monarchs center fielder said he didn’t want to fall behind in the count.
“I just jump on strikes because once I get down, it’s hard to come back,” he said. “I just tried to stay as calm as possible. The situation was huge. My bread and butter is the left-center gap.”
After the Lancers shut out the Monarchs in the series opener, Mater Dei’s offense was opportunistic on Wednesday. The Monarchs scored seven runs on six hits. Jonathan Schiffer and Blake Hunt also had run-scoring singles.
Orange Lutheran rallied to tie or take the lead on three separate occasions. In the sixth, Garrett Mitchell struck a liner off the throwing shoulder of pitcher Jake Briones. The junior stayed in the game, but he surrendered a go-ahead single to Aaron Kim with two outs as the Lancers went up, 6-5.
Following Stephen’s heroics, Briones (1-1) retired the side in order in the seventh to close out the win.
“It showed a lot about Briones’ character, taking a line drive off his shoulder and his throwing arm and to step back in there and compete,” Call said. “I thought he did a great job.”