Late Wednesday night, Corona del Mar High’s Preston Hartsell and Matt Thompson were at the Honda Center.
They watched and cheered on the Anaheim Ducks as they won a series-clinching Game 7 against the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL’s Western Conference Semifinals.
To say that Game 7 victories have been scarce in Anaheim would be an understatement. The season had ended for the Ducks by way of a Game 7 loss at home in each of the past four seasons.
Such wins have been rare for the local hockey club. After seeing that hex broken on Wednesday night, Hartsell was inspired to break his baseball team’s drought.
Hartsell homered twice in a 7-5 win at Northwood High in the regular-season finale on Thursday, a result which gave CdM its first Pacific Coast League title since the 2006 season.
The junior center-fielder had a rude awakening for Northwood starter Kevin Yonamine. He took the first pitch of the game down the right-field line for the game’s first run.
Hartsell, a USC commit, said that he has always been encouraged to be aggressive on the first pitch, an uncommon trait among leadoff hitters.
In the sixth, Hartsell ended Yonamine’s outing. Once again, it was a leadoff home run on the first pitch. In addition, both home runs gave the Sea Kings (20-6, 12-3) the lead, as this one broke a 5-5 tie.
“I knew I got a lot of it,” Hartsell said. “Once I saw the outfielder turn, I knew I had to go just as fast because we needed a run. When it flew out, it felt good.”
This league title comes outright for the Sea Kings. Back in 2006, CdM split the PCL crown three ways with Northwood and Calvary Chapel.
Alex Shadid went the distance for the first time this season. He faced just one batter over the minimum from the fourth inning on.
Once the final out was recorded, Shadid was not prepared for what came next.
“I’ve never been on the bottom of a dogpile,” he said. “I totally forgot that that was going to happen.
“It was a lot of pressure on the body. It just felt amazing, doing it for this school and for this group of guys.”
Northwood (12-14, 7-8) mounted a five-run third inning against Shadid, briefly taking a 5-3 lead. The offensive outburst by the Timberwolves was headlined by a two-run triple from Julian Tristan.
Asked what sort of a leash Shadid had following the third-inning hiccup, Sea Kings coach John Emme said it was simply a matter of changing the approach.
“We changed our approach after they started hitting the breaking ball,” Emme said. “We went back to the fastball, and he was dealing. His pitch count was low.”
Shadid had thrown 41 pitches after the third inning. He finished the game with a pitch count of 94.
Yonamine retired the first two batters the next inning, but a two-out rally brought Chazz Martinez to the plate with the bases loaded. On a 2-2 pitch, the junior first baseman punched a single into left field to tie it, 5-5.
“It felt amazing,” Martinez said of coming up with the hit in a big spot. “We’ve been grinding this whole season, getting after it. It was a big hit, but it was a team win today, and it felt good to do that.”
JT Schwartz and Alex Rosen had multi-hit games with one RBI apiece for the Sea Kings.
Jason Black duplicated the feat for the Timberwolves.
Pacific Coast League
Corona del Mar 7, Northwood 5
SCORE BY INNINGS
CdM 210 201 1 — 7 9 0
Nor 005 000 0 — 5 6 2
Shadid and Thompson; Yonamine, Kotin (6) and Lee. WP — Shadid. LP — Yonamine. 2B — Rosen (CdM). 3B — Tristan (Nor). HR — Hartsell 2 (CdM).