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Baseball Lakewood

CIF Baseball: Lakewood Walks Off With Wild Card Win Over Burroughs

The562’s coverage of Lakewood Athletics is sponsored by J.P. Crawford, Class of 2013.

It took nine innings for the first RBI of the day between Lakewood and Burroughs on Wednesday afternoon, but it was well worth the wait for the Lancers. Senior Mason Yorba lined a walk-off single to left field in the bottom of the ninth, giving Lakewood a 2-1 win in their CIF-SS Division 2 wild card game on Spud O’Neil Field.

“It feels so good,” said Yorba after the win. “We’ve been working and we’ve been so close. And so to finally come out on top like this, it feels good. This was needed for us moving forward.”

Lakewood had its back against the wall in the bottom of the seventh inning as they trailed 1-0, but the Lancers were able to mount a one-out rally and push across the tying run. Sophomore Anthony Zepeda smoked a double down the left field line to start a rally, delivering the only extra-base hit of the day.

After a single from sophomore Drake Merrill put runners at the corners, a strikeout got Burroughs one out away from a win. However, a wild pitch to the next batter allowed pinch runner Nate Gallegos to race home with the tying run, making it 1-1 after 7 frames. The Lancers stranded two runners on in the eighth, but took care of business in the ninth on Yorba’s clutch single over a drawn-in infield.

“We’ve played so many extra inning games that we’re used to this kind of thing,” said Lancers head coach Spud O’Neil. “Two evenly matched teams and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

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The Lakewood offense took a while to get going, but had six hits combined over the final three innings. The Lancers ultimately outhit the Bulldogs, 11-5, and both teams left eight runners on base.

Double plays and sacrifice bunts were a big theme of Wednesday’s game, starting in the top of the first. Burroughs had runners at the corners with one out, but Lakewood starter Adrian Arellano induced a 5-4-3 double play to escape the jam. Arellano settled down really well after that, recording four strikeouts over the next two innings to finish out three scoreless frames.

Burroughs rallied for a run in the fourth without a ball leaving the infield. After an infield hit to third base, the Bulldogs hit a high chopper off the mound to put a second runner on base. After that, Burroughs attempted three consecutive bunts at what proved to be another major turning point in the game.

The first bunt led to an infield single for Kenny Montgomery to load the bases with no outs, then Lakewood expertly defended back-to-back squeeze plays. First, it was Brandon Luna scooping up a bunt with his glove and flicking it to home plate for the force out. Next, pitcher Joseph Dizon did the same exact play for out No. 2. O’Neil says his team practices that play every day, and it clearly paid off on two close force plays at the plate.

Burroughs did score the game’s first run on a wild pitch, however, leading 1-0 in the fourth. Lakewood then hit leadoff singles in back-to-back innings, but spoiled them with double play balls right back to Burroughs starting pitcher Zack Freck. The right-hander pitched very well for the visitors, going 8.0 innings while allowing one run with two walks and seven strikeouts.

Senior Brady Stephenson continues to pitch well out of the Lakewood bullpen, and he covered the final three innings to earn the win in relief. Stephenson struck out six batters, fanning the side in the ninth to set up the walk-off win. He had traffic in his first two innings, even loading the bases in the eighth with two walks and a hit batter, but danced out of trouble to give his team a chance to win.

“The inning that he went in after we tied it, I don’t think he was ready for that to be honest, because it didn’t look the same,” said O’Neil of Stephenson, who was asked to work more than anticipated as the game went to extra innings. “But then he gathered himself and pitched really well.”

In the bottom of the ninth, Merrill reached on the game’s only error as his fly ball was dropped in center field. After a sac bunt from Alex Ortiz (who was 2/3 at the plate), Angel Jocobo snuck a grounder up the middle to put runners at the corners. Then it was up to Yorba to deliver the heroics.

“We knew we had the game in our hands the whole time, we knew it,” Yorba stated. “When I saw the infield come in, I wasn’t trying to do too much; I’m just trying to shoot something through and I got a fastball right there where I like it.”

Lakewood now advances to the first round of the CIF-SS Division 2 playoff bracket, where they’ll take a trip to play Vista Murreta on Friday at 3:15 p.m.

VIDEO: Lakewood vs. Burroughs, CIF Baseball
Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.