Seth Hernandez lifts Corona baseball team past Huntington Beach, into Division 1 championship game – Orange County Register

CORONA — Seth Hernandez’s afternoon on the mound reached an end after the top of the sixth inning.

This in no way meant Hernandez could not have a say in the final outcome of Tuesday’s playoff contest.

Hernandez waited on a 1-2 change-up in the bottom of the sixth inning and launched it over the fence in left field for a two-run home run to lift the Corona baseball team to a 3-1 victory over Huntington Beach in a CIF Southern Section Division 1 semifinal game.

Corona (29-3) will square off against Harvard-Westlake (27-4-1) in the Division 1 championship game Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at The Diamond in Lake Elsinore, a showdown of the division’s top-seeded teams. For Corona, it is the program’s first trip to the finals since 2017. The Panthers are seeking the program’s first section championship since 1998.

“I’ve been struggling a little bit at the plate lately,” Hernandez said. “Jared Grindlinger is a great pitcher, and he’s gotten me out before. He left a change-up out there, and I just took advantage of that opportunity.”

Corona, the division’s top seed, improved to 12-3 this season in games decided by 1 or 2 runs, with the last four wins coming in the playoffs. All three wins over Huntington Beach this year fall into that category.

“I think we really trust each other,” junior shortstop and closer Billy Carlson said about the team’s knack for pulling out so many close contests. “When the score is tight, we pull together and find a way to win.”

It didn’t take long for the game to turn into a pitchers’ duel between Hernandez and Huntington Beach’s Tyler Bellerose. The two hurlers allowed a total of seven hits in their combined 11 innings of work Tuesday afternoon.

Hernandez, a junior who improved his record to 9-0, allowed a leadoff double to Ethan Porter in the top of the first inning, but Hernandez escaped with a pair of shallow fly balls to the outfield and a strikeout.

Bellerose retired 10 of first 11 hitters he faced, and the one batter that reached in the second inning (Carlson) was erased trying to steal second. But Bellerose ran into a little bit of trouble with two outs in the fourth inning.

Hernandez started the two-out rally for the Panthers with a sharp single to right field, and then advanced to third on a single by Josh Springer. And Corona took the lead when Hernandez scored on a wild pitch.

One of the few mistakes Hernandez made came in the top of the sixth inning. He fell behind in the count to CJ Weinstein, who proceeded to turn on a 2-0 fastball and drive a solo homer over the right field fence. Hernandez was at 95 pitches after six innings, so Corona coach Andy Wise was ready to turn to Carlson  no matter what happened in the bottom of the sixth.

Bellerose exited after five strong innings, and Grindlinger, a freshman, was handed the ball for the sixth.

Huntington Beach catcher Trent Grindlinger was unable to haul in Brady Ebel’s towering pop-up in front of the plate. And four pitches later, Hernandez delivered the decisive shot and his team-leading eighth round-tripper of the season.

Carlson retired all three batters he faced in the seventh for his third save of the playoffs and fifth overall.

Corona needed a walk-off home run from Carlson in the seventh inning to beat El Dorado 1-0 in the opening round of the playoffs. The Panthers outlasted Mater Dei 3-1 in eight innings in a second-round game and held off Aquinas 6-4 in the quarterfinals. Wise is not surprised his team has had to endure a few nail-biters during these playoffs.

“We’re a good team, and we’re facing some really good teams that are playing tremendous baseball against us,” Wise said. “In this division, it doesn’t matter who is the higher seed. Any team can go out there and beat another team on any given day… We’ve been fortunate to come out on top in some really close games.”

Corona is looking to become the first No. 1 seed to win the Division 1 baseball title since Camarillo did it 2002. The Panthers will turn to their ace, senior Ethan Schiefelbein, for Saturday’s championship game.

“Hopefully that night will end in joy with us winning a championship,” Schieflebein said. “That would be a great feeling.”

Bellerose allowed one run on three hits and struck out five batters in the no-decision. Weinstein tallied two of the four hits allowed by Hernandez in Tuesday’s game.

Hernandez allowed one run on four hits and struck out six in the victory and was the lone Panther with a multi-hit game.

#Seth #Hernandez #lifts #Corona #baseball #team #Huntington #Beach #Division #championship #game #Orange #County #Register

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *