The April 9 doubleheader between the JSerra Lions and the Los Alamitos Griffins — two of the better teams in Southern California — was halted several times due to passing rain showers in the area. The on-again/off-again rain proved to be just as difficult to get a read on as the action on the field throughout the day.
While JSerra, currently ranked fourth in the state and seventh nationally, dominated the first game from start to finish to the tune of a 7-0 shutout, Los Alamitos regrouped during the short, rainy break in between games and came storming back from an early 3-0 deficit to earn a commanding 9-4 win in the second game.
Lions rule game one
Even without rain delays, doubleheaders are an immensely taxing challenge, both physically and mentally, a fact that was not lost on either manager heading into the long day.
“Doubleheaders are doubleheaders; they’re rough,” acknowledges Los Alamitos manager Matt Nuez. “It’s about keeping their interest, as well as the maturity of the young men and their competitiveness.”
For the Griffins, the first game became a test of maintaining a high level of not only focus, but also morale, as the Lions generated a three-run first inning courtesy of an RBI single from senior shortstop Chase Strumpf and an RBI double by Micah Pries. The party continued for JSerra all game long, as junior third baseman Royce Lewis led the second inning off with a solo home run, and then in the seventh inning senior catcher Lyle Lin (who reached base four times on the game) added a two-RBI double for good measure.
And JSerra’s pitching was even better than its offense, as senior Collin Quinn, junior Cole Samuels, junior Colin Townsend and senior Noah Whalen combined for a three-hit shutout, completely stymying the Griffins despite their best efforts. “It’s a tough task when you’re playing one of the better teams in the section, if not in all of Southern California and maybe even the west coast,” says Nuez. “[JSerra manager] Brett [Kay] does a great job with those guys.”
Griffins rebound in game two
The second game of the doubleheader felt like deja vu, as, once again, the Lions roared out of the gate and tallied three runs in the first inning. This time, however, the Griffins refused to be discouraged and exploded for a five-run inning of their own.
“We’ve come off a couple of rough losses (by scores of 4-2 and 5-0 at the hands of Huntington Beach and Marina, respectively,) and I think, to be frank, we were feeling a little sorry for ourselves and trying to find our way back,” assesses Nuez. “Once we got done feeling sorry for ourselves and started playing again, we were able to take advantage of some things, be a little more productive and give ourselves a chance.”
The sparkplug for the early productivity was provided by junior pitcher Michael Townsend (two for three on the game), who helped his own cause with a bases-clearing triple. Los Alamitos tacked on another three runs in the second inning, when a single by junior first baseman Mark Stanford followed by an error in the outfield scored senior shortstop Josh Agnew (two for four with two runs) senior centerfielder Brett Corwin (two for four with three runs) and senior designated hitter Scott Andersen (two for two with two runs).
Townsend calmed down tremendously from there, allowing just one more JSerra run en route to a complete game. Though Lewis remained a nuisance for Los Alamitos, finishing a home run shy of the cycle, Townsend executed the pitches he needed at every turn. to thwart every JSerra comeback bid.
“Michael is one of those pitchers who, as his pitch count increases, he actually gets a little better,” claims Nuez. “He’s a great dual player for us.”
“We always stay behind each other,” adds Townsend of his team’s ability to shake off the bitter disappointment of the first game. “We’re there for each other no matter what. We pick each other up and keep going. It feels really good when your team comes through for you like that.”