By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Sports Editor There were plenty of superstars that could emerge as the hero if Maranatha was to knock off La Salle in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 title game Saturday morning at Cal State Fullerton. The first three that come to mind are sluggers Max Blessinger and Marco Martinez, as well […]
By Brian Reed-Baiotto, Sports Editor
There were plenty of superstars that could emerge as the hero if Maranatha was to knock off La Salle in the CIF-Southern Section Division 3 title game Saturday morning at Cal State Fullerton.
The first three that come to mind are sluggers Max Blessinger and Marco Martinez, as well as the area’s and probably the section’s best pitcher, Dawson Netz.
But along came Will Downing.
The quiet MHS junior, who thought he might start the game because Netz had just three eligible innings after his complete-game victory (shutout) at Redlands in the semifinals was on the bench.
Max Blessinger got the start and the star junior got roughed up a little bit early.
Henry Kavanaugh led off the top of the first inning with a single to right and that brought up La Salle senior Ethan Patrick, who paced the entire area with 10 postseason hits heading into Saturday’s game.
Blessinger, though, got the star shortstop to fly out to left field.
But after sophomore Mark Daley drew a one-out walk, one of the area’s best stories this season, La Salle catcher Brennen Mace drove in both Kavanaugh and Daley with a double to the wall and an early 2-0 lead.
James Barnard followed Mace and drew a walk to give the Lancers runners on first and second with just the one out.
MHS coach Matt Shupper went to the mound to make a change.
Shupper called on Will Downing, and Blessinger went to his usual second base and feeling like “I let my brothers down,” he would say after the game.
But thankfully for Blessinger, Shupper and Maranatha, Will Downing quickly escaped the inning without allowing any further damage.
Downing went 3 2/3 innings, didn’t allow a hit, didn’t walk a batter and struck out four on 32 pitches.
He ended up getting the victory, because in the bottom of the fourth inning, Maranatha finally broke through against La Salle ace Zane Lindeman.
The Minutemen scored four in the inning thanks to a Casey Popham RBI single, and Blessinger doubled in three more when the La Salle right fielder lost the ball in the sun and it rolled to the wall.
It was a win-win scenario for Maranatha, because not only did they take the lead for the first time, it also meant Netz (11-0, 0.27 ERA) could use those last three innings of eligibility this week to close out the Lancers, and he did just that.
Netz went the final three innings, allowing one hit, no walks, he hit one batter and struck out five to earn the save and secure the CIF Division 3 championship.
It was Shupper’s first CIF title in seven years at the school and leading this program.
People often say the ‘third time is the charm,’ but for Maranatha, that number is 20.
The Minutemen won their 20th consecutive game to close out the 2018 season on top of the pack.
Henry Kavanaugh finished 2 for 3 for La Salle (18-10) and scored once.
Brennen Mace, as we mentioned had a dream season, not only just behind the plate for the Lancers, but especially with a bat in his hands.
Mace hit .071 his sophomore season, and .141 last year, but the La Salle senior was easily the breakout player of the year for the Pasadena area.
He hit well over .400 and spearheaded the Lancers’ offensive surge, especially in the postseason, and that included a three-run home run in the first round at Charter Oak, and he had both RBIs in Saturday in the title game.
Lindeman went all six innings and allowed four runs on 11 hits.
The Lancers’ senior was saddled with the loss, but make no mistake about it, Lindeman’s 23-8 career varsity record, including a 3-1 mark in the postseason with four complete games puts him in a very elite club.
Lindeman walked one and struck out three, and before the four-run fourth inning, he was able to navigate through some rough waters to keep the lead through three innings.
Ethan Patrick went 0 for 3, but as mentioned, this kid is universally respected for his success and especially the way he plays the game.
Patrick collected 10 postseason hits to lead the area and will represent La Salle proudly over the next four year at Loyola Marymount.
For the champions, Nick Iverson, Casey Popham, Sal Tabullo and Max Blessinger each had two hits apiece on Saturday.
Blessinger drove in three of the four runs and Popham had the other RBI.
Ethan Firestone and Dante Campione both singled and scored for Maranatha.
Brock Vradenburg finished 1 for 3 in the cleanup spot and had an incredible sophomore year offensively.
While Maranatha deserves the praise and credit for being the D3 champs, a lot of credit should go to first-year coach Eddie McKiernan and each kid that took the field this season.
The Lancers were expected to get bounced in the first round at Charter Oak, but they shoved it down the throats of everyone, including many in the media, who dismissed their chances as they knocked off Charter Oak, Temecula Valley, Temescal Canyon and then Long Beach Wilson to set up Saturday’s showdown with MHS.
La Salle: 2-0-0-0-0-0-0-(2)
Win: Will Downing
Loss: Zane Lindeman
Save: Dawson Netz
2B: Brennen Mace (LS); Max Blessinger (M)
Records: La Salle (18-10); Maranatha (27-4)