The Lakewood baseball program boasts more history than most high school baseball programs in California. Their head coach, Walter “Spud” O’Neil, is a walking testament to that fact, having won 910 games and counting–800 of them with the Lancers. But it’s been five seasons since Lakewood won a playoff game, a fact that weighed heavily on the history-conscious coaches and boosters of the program.
The Lancers turned that recent history around on Thursday afternoon, winning their kind of playoff game against Los Osos, 10-3.
“It’s been a weird year, and we’ve done a lot of teaching,” said O’Neil. “In the first half of the season, we’d lost so many one-run games that we were ahead in the fifth and sixth and seventh inning. We couldn’t finish. We’ve learned to do that, these kids have worked really hard.”
Anthony Eyanson had a solid starting effort on the mound for Lakewood, fighting his way out of trouble in two innings and limiting damage to just three runs through five innings.
“He’s learning, he’s getting better, and winning a playoff game is going to be huge for him,” said O’Neil.
Eyanson said that when he was battling back in the second and third innings after putting runners on, he focused by thinking about the earlier struggles this season.
“During those times where the tide could have turned I just kept thinking to myself that we did not want a first round exit, especially after what happened in Moore League,” said Eyanson.
The Lancers fell behind 1-0 but tied the game on a single from Wade Coats in the bottom of the second, then took a lead when Jared Stephenson scored from second on a missed throw to the second baseman. Los Osos evened the score in the top of the third with a sac fly RBI.
The Lancers blew the game open in a wild fourth inning that saw them score seven runs and bring 13 batters to the plate. It began with a walk and a hit by pitch to Stephenson and Kane Yonamine, then Eric Yuriar’s bunt put him on first base but didn’t score a run or produce an out, loading the bases. The Lancers scored all seven runs in the inning with two outs, as James Provencio brought in two runs with a single, and Eyanson singled in a run on a controversial play.
Eyanson hit a grounder and had a bang-bang play at first, where the umpire said he was out. The home plate umpire overruled the call, putting Eyanson back on and scoring a run to make it 5-2, over the loud protests of the Los Osos parents and coaches.
“We had that call go our way, but it was a good call because his foot was off the bag when he caught the ball,” said O’Neil. “We’ve had close calls go against us this year, too.”
The decision was significant, with Nohea Mapu hitting a two-RBI single in the next at-bat. Stephenson singled in another run as did Yonamine, making it 9-2.
“Our kids woke up,” said O’Neil.
Diego Gutierrez pitched a scoreless inning in the sixth and Coats did the same in the seventh to close the game out, with Lakewood winning comfortably. All but two Lancers starters scored a run in the game.
The Lancers will be on the road Tuesday in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 3 playoffs, traveling to Calabasas.