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Marina falls short

This time, there were no late-inning heroics for the Marina baseball team.

Three days after coming up with a game-changing rally that pushed them past Los Angeles Loyola, the Vikings' attempt to win the programs' first CIF Southern Section title in 10 years and third, overall, was denied by North Hollywood Harvard-Westlake. The Wolverines survived a 1-0 contest in the Division 1 championship game at Dodger Stadium on Friday.

Marina had its chances to upend the No. 3-seeded Wolverines but could not convert scoring opportunities in the third and seventh innings, and had a nine-game win streak snapped.

The Vikings played Harvard-Westlake, a team that had rolled in postseason play, on even terms.

"We knew the game would be a close one," Marina Coach Bob Marshall said. "Our players battled until the end. I thought we really had this game. We hung right there with them the entire game. We had our opportunities but we could not get it done.

"We had bases loaded with one out and our guys could not just push that run across. That was big. We could have had a couple of hits to break this game wide open but, it did not happen."

Marina (22-9) was down a run heading into the seventh and had been limited to just three hits by Harvard-Westlake junior Jack Flaherty, a right-handed pitcher who has committed to North Carolina. But Tyler Mildenberg breathed some life into the Vikings' offense when he sent a single through the middle of the infield to start the inning. Mildenberg went to second base on Landon Marshall's sacrifice bunt, putting the tying run in scoring position.

Grant Mayeaux then connected on an 0-1 pitch for a single into left field. Mildenberg rounded third and headed for home, but never made it. Harvard-Westlake left fielder Ezra Steinberg fielded Mayeaux's hit and fired a strike to home where catcher Arden Pabst blocked the plate and laid the tag on Mildenberg for the second out of the inning.

"I told the kids after the game, that one was one me," said Bob Marshall who was in the third base coach's box and gave Mildenberg the green light for home. "Tyler's one of our fastest kids and I was going to send him. That kid [Steinberg] made a clutch throw. It was money.

"It was a heartbreak but the great thing about baseball is the magic that happens at the ball park. Sometimes that magic is in your favor and this night it was in their favor. There was plenty of excitement that night. Westlake had a player thrown out at home, as well. The game of baseball is phenomenal and if you let it, this game can teach you so much about life. I am so proud of our boys and the accomplishments that we as a team had this year."

After Pabst prevented the tying run from crossing the plate, Austin Moore lined a single into right field on the next pitch to put runners at first and second. Pinch hitter Bryan Perez then sent a grounder to shortstop where the Wolverines' Brian Ginsberg flipped the ball to second baseman Alex Horowitz who stepped on the bag for the force out to end the game.

Harvard-Westlake (28-4) scored the game's only run in the bottom of the third when Flaherty came up with a two-out, RBI single to right field on a full count.

The winning run came after Marina initial frustration of the game came in the top of the third, a frame where the Vikings left loaded bases.

Mayeaux got his first hit of the game, Moore's followed with his first hit when he laid down a bunt and beat it out for a single, and lead-off hitter Jake Bauers drew a one-out walk to load the bases. A pop out in foul territory near first base, and a strikeout, ended that scoring opportunity.

Flaherty finished with seven strikeouts and sent the Vikings down in order in four of the first five innings.

"He's the real deal," Marshall said of Flaherty.

Marina couldn't find the run it needed. In a semifinal game against ninth-ranked Loyola on May 28, the Vikings came up big late by scoring three runs in the bottom of the sixth to pull out a 6-5 victory.

"To be on the losing end of this one, will sting for a while," Marshall said."

Both teams finished with six hits and each played error-free.

Marina also cut down a runner attempting to score in another key game segment. The play came in the bottom of the third after Flaherty's RBI single. Pabst doubled down the line in right field and on the hit to the corner, Flaherty flew around the bases from first and took off for home. Austin Sojka fielded the ball in right field, hit Bauers with the cutoff throw, and Bauers threw to catcher Landon Marshall who tagged out Flaherty.

Austin Olivas started for Marina and the senior left-hander limited a powerful Harvard-Westlake offense to a single run. Olivas gave up six hits, struck out three and didn't allow a walk in his five innings. Senior Dee Atwood started the sixth and threw to three batters before being replaced by senior Maxwell Gibbs.

"Their pitcher, Jack Flaherty, pitched a great game and singled in the winning run," Marshall said. "Tip your hat to that young man. However, our guy, Austin Olivas, is the real deal, as well. He is a big game pitcher and he did a terrific job holding Harvard-Westlake to one run through five innings. Wish we were able to give him some run support.

"Olivas was great all year and Marina baseball was blessed to have a pitcher of his ability to pitch in the championship game at Dodger Stadium."

Harvard-Westlake was held to its second-lowest run total of the season. The Wolverines also defeated Valencia/Valencia, 1-0, in their fourth game of the year. They were shut out, 4-0, by Mater Dei on March 30.

The Wolverines, who shared the Mission League title with Loyola, had outscored their four previous playoff opponents, 27-4. Seventeen of their 28 wins were by shutout.

Marina was shut out for only the second time this year.

"I was pumped up all day and had everything working," said Olivas who had complete-game victories in the postseason against Norco (2-1) and Agoura (3-1). "The first inning was the hardest inning, with this crowd, and all. When I got out of it within any damage, I felt a lot of relief.

"This (game) will be in my mind all the time. It was a great, all-around experience."

Marina won 15 of its final 18 games to close the season and finished runner-up in the Sunset League.

Marshall addressed his team in right field after the game.

"My team is tough," he said. "They fought the whole game. They believed we would win. My coaches and I are so proud of these young men for what they accomplished on and off the field. They held their heads high. Yes, tears and emotions flooded the field that night, but what a great show these Vikings gave the crowd at Dodger Stadium."

The Marina-Harvard-Westlake game was the third of three division finals of the day at Dodger Stadium. The announced total attendance for the three games was 8,019.

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