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Pacifica's Caira is baseball coach of the year
Pacifica won its first baseball league championship in 2009.
That would have been a fine coaching career highlight for Mike Caira. But better things would come.
This season, Pacifica not only won another Empire League championship, the Mariners also won a CIF-Southern Section championship.
Pacifica's 3-2 victory over Aliso Niguel in the Division 2 final at Dodger Stadium on June 2 capped a great season for the Mariners, a season in which Caira is the Orange County baseball coach of the year.
The Mariners finished the 2012 season, Caira's sixth at Pacifica, with a 12-game winning streak. Their final loss of '12 was to Cypress, 5-0, on April 12 in the consolation championship game of the National Classic tournament.
Only five days later, Pacifica had to play Cypress again, and in a more-important game – the first Empire League confrontation of two teams who were in the county and Division 2 top 10s all season.
Pacifica beat Cypress, 3-2, in 15 innings. The Mariners were trailing, 2-0, in the bottom of the seventh inning until Kyle Davis and Matt Gildbody hit back-to-back home runs to put the game into extra innings.
In the rematch on May 10, Cypress took a 1-0 lead into the seventh inning. Max Bethell hit a two-run home run in the seventh and Pacifica prevailed again, 2-1, to take the league championship and stretch its winning streak to seven games.
Then it was on to the playoffs.
"Our motto was, 'Get to the playoffs and play well,'" Caira said. "The team that makes the playoffs playing well with some momentum usually makes a run at it. And we had that momentum."
With the pitching duo of Bethell and Davis leading the charge, and timely hitting from Trent Chatterton, Jono Herkins and others, the Mariners stayed hot in the playoffs and got that CIF championship.
Caira, 34, played at Kennedy for Coach Chris Pascal, then at Fullerton College for Nick Fuscardo, and at Chapman University for Rex Peters. He coached at Fullerton College and at Kennedy and Loara high schools before becoming Pacifica's head coach in 2007.Caira teaches special education at Pacifica.
Caira felt that with so many late-inning victories, like the ones over Cypress, a "team of destiny" atmosphere did exist.
"Sometimes in baseball you can do everything right and not win," he said. "Sometimes you get fortunate, and this year we were fortunate. It seemed like from the middle of the season on, everything we called and everything we tried worked."
And it worked out to be a memorable season for Pacifica and Mike Caira.