The562’s high school baseball and softball coverage for the 2022 season is sponsored by LBUSD Board of Education Member Megan Kerr.
In the history of California high school baseball, only two coaches have won more games than Lakewood legend Spud O’Neil. His 930th win, Tuesday afternoon, looked a lot like the classic Lancers baseball that fans know and love. Lakewood welcomed in a higher-ranked opponent in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs, No. 4 Norco.
With Norco parked in Lakewood’s famously tight and sweaty visitors dugout, the Lancers proceeded to turn in a vintage performance, with great pitching and defense, and enough timely defense to get the job done in a 3-2 thriller.
“It never gets old,” said O’Neil after the game. “The thing is, after the pandemic, we’d been struggling with our culture. That’s important here. These guys are bringing it back.”
The star of the day was once again senior UCSD signee Anthony Eyanson, who threw a complete game just a few days after leading Lakewood to a 1-0 win in the first round. Eyanson fatigued towards the end of the game, but still struck out 12 and limited a powerful Norco offense to just two runs.
“This is one of those games that you’d dream about when you’re younger, watching Lakewood baseball,” said Eyanson. His confidence in his defense was high throughout the game, as was his confidence in his homefield.
“We know that no one is going to hit that one ball that changes the game,” he said. “It’s 469 to dead center, it’s a graveyard. So when teams come from far away, they’re kind of shocked when they get out here.”
O’Neil said that’s been a piece of why his team has been so successful at home–Norco is a team that hits a lot of homeruns, and they had a lot of deep fly balls that were caught as routine outs Tuesday.
“They hit a ton of homeruns in a band box atmosphere,” said O’Neil. “Teams come here and their eyes get wide. They hit a lot of balls today that would have gone out at Heartwell.”
The Lancers defense played well behind Eyanson as well. Leftfielder Joey Gann had a pair of smooth catches, including a dead-sprint catch on the run to end the fourth inning, when Norco had their best hitter up with the bases loaded.
Catcher Kane Yonamine caught a runner trying to steal second, and the Lancers turned two doubles plays as well.
The offense came early for Lakewood, as Nohea Mapu and James Provencio hit leadoff singles, then were moved over on a sac bunt by Yonamine. That brought up Eyanson, who cashed the runs in with a 2-RBI hard-hit bouncer. Mapu added the third run in the bottom of the second on a round-tripper, where he took third and then ran home on a misplayed ball by the Norco infield.
The Lancers had a chance to add to their lead late in the game but had a runner tagged out at home. Meanwhile, Norco was chipping away, scoring a run in the top of the sixth. In the top of the seventh, they scored another to cut the Lakewood lead to 3-2 with two outs, the tying run on first, and Eyanson down to his last batter due to pitch count restrictions.
The Lancers defense held up on another deep hit to left field, calmly brought in by Gann.
“When our defense is playing like they did today it gives me confidence because I know if I miss a step, they’re going to make up for it,” said Eyanson.
Lakewood advances to Friday’s quarterfinals, where they’ll host Maranatha in a 3:15 p.m. game.