Corona del Mar High baseball coach John Emme announced on Monday that he is retiring at the end of the season, his 21st in charge of the Sea Kings.
Ever since, the Sea Kings can't be stopped. They scored a combined 21 runs in Pacific Coast League wins against University and Northwood this week, giving them momentum heading into Saturday's Battle of the Bay game against Newport Harbor.
CdM pounded its rival as well, routing the Sailors 16-1 at UC Irvine.
"We've had a great week," Emme said. "The kids are stepping up. If I would have known they were going to respond like this, I would have retired a long time ago."
The Sea Kings had 17 hits in blasting Newport Harbor (6-5), including a three-run home run by junior Luc Stuka. They also got a solid start on the mound from junior pitcher Jarrett Thompson, who Emme said began the year on CdM's junior varsity team.
Making his second varsity start, Thompson got his first career win Saturday after pitching six innings of one-run ball. The right-hander allowed three hits, striking out seven and walking three before Nolan Dunn closed out the Sailors in the seventh.
"I just tried to go one pitch at a time," Thompson said. "[The runs scored by the offense] helped a lot. My fastball, I had pretty good location. My curveball and changeup were OK today."
Corona del Mar, the designated visiting team, did not mess around against Newport Harbor and starting pitcher AJ Stefano. The Sea Kings went up 1-0 after three pitches.
Leadoff hitter Preston Hartsell stroked a double down the first-base line on the second pitch he saw. J.T. Schwartz then connected on a first-pitch double to right, as CdM took the early lead. Chaz Martinez followed with a single to left that would move Schwartz to third, and he came home on a sacrifice fly by Stuka.
Hartsell then started a two-out rally in the top of the second. His sinking line drive to right was misplayed by the Sailors right fielder and rolled past him. Hartsell ended up on third base.
"That's a really good hitting team, and we didn't make plays behind [Stefano] when we needed it," Newport Harbor coach Evan Chalmers said. "It got unraveled early … That ball had a lot of topspin. Their hitters are really big and very physical, so the ball hit is a little different than a normal high school kid."
Hartsell scored on a passed ball before Schwartz singled to right. Martinez followed with another single before Stuka unleashed a three-run home run to right, turning on a fastball with a 2-2 count. The Sea Kings had a 6-0 lead after two innings.
That was the end of Stefano's day, and the Sailors would turn to six more pitchers. The CdM hits kept coming.
Schwartz, who was three for four with three runs batted in, later added a triple. Reece Berger and Tanner Ivey had doubles for CdM, which also got hits from Garin Friedman, Kieran Sidebotham, Alex Rosen and Nick Gilbert.
Newport Harbor scored its only run in the fourth, when pinch-hitter Braham Duncan doubled to left-center. One out later, he was brought home on a double by Cameron Mahaffy.
It wasn't nearly enough to prevent Emme from going home a winner in what will be his final Battle of the Bay game, unless the Sea Kings meet the Sailors in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 playoffs.