Decision to let pitcher hit ninth in the order pays off as Titans reach Open Division title game
June 2, 2016
Admission: $11 adults, $7 students
(4) Eastlake (29-4) vs. (3) Cathedral Catholic (24-9)
Where: USD’s Fowler Park
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Preview: Eastlake moves up to the Open Division after losing the Division I championship game to Poway last season. The Titans have four Little League World Series players in Micha Pietila-Wiggs, Ben Ramirez, Grant Holman and Nick Mora. Add Casey Schmitt and Julian Escobedo and this is a good offensive team with strong pitching. Cathedral Catholic, the Division III champ in 2011 and 2012, is led by Jordan Chang (.358, 18 RBIs), Jacob Allred (.343, 14 RBIs) and Cole Mueller (.352, 12 RBIs). Neither ace — Connor Lunn (9-1, 0.84 ERA) nor Preston Price (6-3, 2.30 ERA) — has pitched this week.
CHULA VISTA — The decision to start Grant Holman on the mound was a no-brainer.
The decision to have him hit was a flip of the coin, according to Eastlake High baseball coach David Gallegos.
Both decisions were spot on as the sophomore right-hander threw a complete-game three-hitter and had two hits, drove in two and scored a run as the Titans beat Grossmont 5-1 in an Open Division semifinal Thursday.
Fourth-seeded Eastlake (29-4) advances to Saturday’s 7 p.m. San Diego Section championship game against No. 3 Cathedral Catholic (24-9) at USD’s Fowler Park.
No. 5 Grossmont finishes its season 23-12.
“Grant’s been swinging a hot bat, so I was going to let him hit,” Gallegos said. “But it still came down to a coin flip.
“And it worked.”
Holman, hitting ninth in the Eastlake lineup, singled up the middle with two out in the second to drive in a pair.
He started the sixth with a double down the left-field line and scored when Ben Ramirez’s liner skipped by the right fielder for a triple.
Ramirez then scored on a throwing error.
“Getting to hit in our lineup is a luxury,” Holman said. “All I’m trying to do is get on base for the top of our order.”
After allowing a first-inning run on Calvin Farris’ RBI single, Holman was in complete command on the mound. He retired the next 10 hitters in order and allowed just three baserunners over the final 61/3 innings — two on walks and one on an infield single.
Still, he was on a short leash on a warm day.
“Grant was awesome, but I had Casey Schmitt warmed and ready to close,” said Gallegos. “When we added the two runs in the sixth, we wanted Grant to have the opportunity to finish.”
Holman struck out three and walked two in the game, getting the last two batters on a popup and strikeout.
“My curve was really working,” Holman said. “It had lateral movement and downward tilt. I was able to throw it early and late in counts.
“These kind of games are fun for me. I like the pressure of a big game. I seem to perform better in the spotlight.
“I was able to do it against a quality Grossmont team. They presented a huge challenge.”
Jackson Hulett pitched well enough to win for Grossmont. He gave up one run on an infield tapper and another on a throwing error.
“Jackson’s tough as nails,” said Grossmont coach Jordan Abruzzo. “He pitched great for us all season, and he gave us a chance to win today.
“We just couldn’t get anything going on offense.
“This group has been great to work with. The kids bought in and gave it everything they had.”
“The seniors set the tone for the future. I love them, and I’m proud of them.”