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PHOTO: COURTESY USA BASEBALL
The Orange Lutheran baseball team celebrates after winning the National High School Invitational championship game Saturday in Cary, N.C.

Orange Lutheran extends O.C. reign in prestigious NHSI

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

CARY, N.C. – The third time was the charm for the Orange Lutheran baseball team in its quest to win the National High School Invitational.

The Lancers (12-1), making their third appearance in the prestigious tournament, defeated Dana Hills, 3-2, in the all-Orange County championship game Saturday at the USA Baseball National Training Center.

It is also the third consecutive year that a team from Orange County won the event. Huntington Beach won in 2016, and San Clemente took the title in 2015.

With the score tied, 2-2, Orange Lutheran scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth inning on a sacrifice fly by pinch hitter Jasiah Dixon and held off Dana Hills in the top of the seventh for the win.

“We know there is great baseball in Southern California,” Orange Lutheran coach Eric Borba said. “But when you come into a national stage and end up with three of them (teams) in the semifinals and two in the championship game, it just reaffirms that the best baseball in the country is played in SoCal.

“If you go back (six years), 11 out of the 12 finalists have been from the state of California.”

Five of the six champions have been from Orange County, including Mater Dei in 2012 and 2013.

Junior Sawyer Chesley led the Lancers with two doubles, including a run-scoring double in the second inning that gave them a 1-0 lead.

Chesley came home with the Lancers' second run on an infield error by the Dolphins.

“It’s still sinking in right now,” said Chesley of winning the championship. “It’s still an unreal moment. Everyone just stepped up and (Saturday) was my day to really come through for the team.”

In the third inning, Dana Hills scored twice to make it 2-2. Senior second baseman Jordan Matthews (3 for 3) singled to drive in sophomore third baseman Cody Hedalen for the first run, and  senior first baseman Joe DeBaca tied it with a single to left, scoring Matthews.

Lancers senior Zach Busalacchi replaced left-hander Lonnie Morris on the mound at that point, and he went the final 4 2/3 innings.

“I think this (championship) is huge for the program,” Busalacchi said. “It just puts out our name as to what kind of program we have.”

He allowed four hits and no runs to earn the win.

“It was an awesome, gutty performance and he just had that look in his eyes that he wasn’t going to lose,” Borba said of Busalacchi.

“Grit is one of our mottos,” Borba added. “We had a senior in Brenden Avventino do that (Friday), and they both answered the bell and did a great job.”

“That was a tough game to lose,” Dana Hills coach Tom Faris said. “Because it felt like we were in control of the game and it didn’t work out in our favor.”

In other NHSI games:

Huntington Beach 4, Canterbury (Florida) 2: The Oilers overcame a 2-0 deficit in the fifth inning to win their final game of the tournament in the consolation bracket.


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