Story and photos by Erik Markus
La Habra Journal
The Whittier Christian baseball team took control early putting up four runs in the first inning to cruise to a 10-2 victory over the Santa Ana Saints, Saturday at Whittier Christian High.
The Heralds were active on the base paths and took advantage immediately. Mike Rafter reached first base on a walk but swiped second and third without any trouble. Cooper Hughes drove him in with an RBI single with two outs in the inning.
Hughes swiped second and came home on a single to left from Joseph Cobian, who also stole second on a delayed steal attempt. Logan Veloff drew a walk.
With Brian Rafter at the plate, Veloff and Cobian moved up another base on a passed ball. Brian Rafter took care of the rest with a single to center which scored both runners.
Up four runs however, the Heralds kept the pressure on. Mike Rafter singled to lead off the second inning and went to third on an overthrow from Billy Scolinos’ single. Scolinos was thrown out trying for third. Mike Rubio doubled to bring in Rafter, and went to third base on a wild pitch.
“Rubio’s been swinging the bat very well,” head coach Brent Lavoie said, “He’s just getting into a rhythm, he’s still getting better every game.”
Hughes picked up his second of three hits on an RBI single to bring in Rubio. With the Heralds up six runs, Hughes was stranded at second after he stole his second base.
“Today was a big day offensively for Cooper, and we’re hoping that’s the spark that gets his bat going,” Lavoie said.
Chris Thompson struggled with his command, but escaped through two innings without any runs. However in the third, the Saints (3-14) put their first run on the board with a single to left with runners on the corners. Hughes showcased his arm gunning down two runners in the inning to keep the Herald’s margin to just five runs through three innings.
Thompson controlled the fourth inning to finish his day on the mound. After the Heralds added two more in the fourth inning, they began putting players in new spots.
“I like the fact that he still made big pitches and got big outs when he needed them, but he’ll tell you he did not have his best stuff,” Lavoie said of his starting pitcher.
Trevor McGee came in to relieve Thompson. McGee gave up one run through three innings and was able to locate his pitches efficiently. McGee showed surprisingly good command with his curveball, which will be helpful down the stretch.
“It’s sharp, it’s good we know he’s got good stuff, he’s just been having a little trouble controlling his stuff,” Lavoie said. “Now that he’s proven that he can keep it in the strike zone that’s a huge addition coming out of the bullpen.”
Logan Veloff came in to catch for McGee, and Hughes moved into centerfield. Dakota Veltkamp took over for Cobian and Jake Rivera got his first hit of the season with a pinch hit triple which scored Hughes.
The Heralds (11-9) are currently in third place in the Olympic League with a record of 2-4. They meet Heritage Christian on Tuesday and visit them on Friday. These two games will be pivotal for playoff positioning.
“We still steer our own vessel,” Lavoie said, “but we realize we’ve got to take care of business this week.”