Capoccia helps Edison reach playoffs
HUNTINGTON BEACH — Edison baseball coach Steve Lambright informed sophomore pitcher Dante Capoccia on Wednesday he would start the regular-season finale at home against Los Alamitos.
Win and the Chargers were in the playoffs; lose and their fate was in another team’s hands.
Capoccia had never started a varsity game before. His response: “I'm going to beat them.”
His response Thursday on the mound was no different. Capoccia limited No. 7 Los Alamitos to three hits as Edison won, 3-1, clinching a playoff berth and third place in the Sunset League. The CIF-SS playoff drawings will be announced Monday.
“You could see it in his eyes that he would be determined to beat them,” Lambright said. “He has the make-up. He could walk into a haunted house and he wouldn’t be scared. In a game like this, he could handle it.”
The Chargers (11-13, 9-6) needed to earn their way into the postseason because their sub-.500 overall record made them ineligible for an at-large berth. Lambright has now led the program to a playoff appearance in each of his seven seasons as coach.
Edison, which had won the past three Sunset League titles, began this season 1-6 after playing a handful of top programs.
“Those teams build us for the Sunset League,” Lambright said. “That’s what matters, the league. That’s what gets you in the playoffs. I’m not worried about the overall record.
"Everyone thought we weren’t going to be very good this year. I took that personal.”
Capoccia went 4 2/3 innings, giving up one earned run before running into trouble in the fifth when he hit consecutive batters. With a 3-1 lead, Lambright handed the ball over to shortstop Timmy Lopes and told him, “Just get us in the playoffs.”
Lopes struck out the next batter and allowed only a single over the final 2 1/3 innings.
“It’s been him all year,” Lambright said of Lopes.
Edison squeezed three runs out of just three hits — a leadoff home run by Lopes in the first inning, and back-to-back RBI singles by Jake Lesinski and Brian Schales in the third inning. Pitching, defense and a few timely hits has been the M.O. for the Chargers, who scored more than four runs in just one league game.
“This ballclub has to make three runs and three hits stand up and that’s it,” Lambright said. “Somehow we won nine league games. We’ll take it.”
Two of those victories came against Los Alamitos (19-8, 11-4), which came into Thursday league co-champions at worst after winning its ninth consecutive league game against Edison on Tuesday.
First-year coach Matt Nuez said clinching league early led to a bit of complacency.
“I always talk to these guys about the things they can control,” Nuez said. “That’s their effort and attitude. I understand we clinched the league championship. It was our responsibility as head coaches to keep their focus. I think that left us a little bit today. It’s a little disappointing.”
The Griffins, who are guaranteed the Sunset League’s top seed, have lost two games in a row just once, during the second week of the season.
“Our work isn’t done,” Nuez said. “Hopefully this sour taste in their mouth will be the Pavlovian response that they need. They walk away salty from the field. Whenever that happens it seems to bring back a focus and resolve to us immediately.”
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