Popham lifts Maranatha
Minutemen earn a 3-2 victory over No. 2 seed and will travel to Bishop for Tuesday’s semifinals.
Above: Maranatha gathers between innings during its game against Lancaster Desert Christian in the CIF-SS quarterfinals Saturday at Brookside Park Jackie Robinson Field. (SGVN/Staff Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/SPORTS)
CIF-SS Division VI Semifinals
Maranatha at Bishop, 3:15 p.m.
By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
PASADENA – One hit. That’s all that was needed. But it took six extra innings for it to happen.
Cory Popham hit a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Maranatha High School baseball team a 3-2 victory over Lancaster’s Desert Christian on Saturday at Brookside Park’s Jackie Robinson Field.
The victory sent the Minutemen into the CIF-Southern Section Division VI semifinals.
In a game that lasted almost four hours and featured high extra-inning drama in which neither team could score – and really never had the opportunity to score – Popham drove in Josh Forrester with no outs with a fly ball to left field. The Knights were drawn in and the ball easily went over left fielder Ryan Montana’s head.
“I just wanted to get it up in the air,” the third baseman said. “When it got over his head, that was exciting.”
The Minutemen will play at Bishop in Tuesday’s semifinal.
Forrester was hit by a Jared Corlew pitch to start the 13th. Erik Johnson laid down a bunt and Corlew opted to try to get Forrester at second base. Forrester beat the throw.
Jordan Calloway then hit a drive at Desert Christian shortstop Tyler Shryock. The ball glanced off his glove to load the bases for Popham, who had pitched 52/3 innings before running into the CIF-SS’s 10-inning rule in the 12th.
“Right before I went out, I told my friends to watch this,” Popham said. “It’s going to be a hit. It was a great game.”
Desert Christian, the tournament’s second seed, was riding a nine-game win streak heading into the game. The Knights had lost only once previously and the fewest runs they had scored in any game was four. Saturday, they roughed up Maranatha starter Dylan Covey for two runs in the first but then went 12 innings without one.
Covey went 51/3 innings, striking out 10. He was pulled when he reached his pitch count. The Knights had only two hits in the final nine innings off Covey, Popham and Danny Beckwith.
When Popham ran out of innings in the 12th, sophomore Beckwith came in and worked out of trouble twice. He gave up a two-out walk and balked, but got a ground out. In the 13th, Montana led off with a single, but Beckwith threw him out at second on an attempted sacrifice. The Knights then sacrificed, but another groundout ended the threat.
“At the beginning, I was pretty nervous,” he said. “But after I got the first out, I didn’t feel that much pressure. But there was a lot of pressure.”
Popham said the pitchers faced all the pressure.
“There was a ton of pressure for the pitchers,” he said. “I told (Beckwith), ‘Do not worry about giving up a run because we never quit.’ We never feel like we’re going to lose.”
There was pressure on both teams. One misguided pitch and one hit, and a team’s season was over.
“This is a team with a lot of heart,” Maranatha coach Brian DeHaan said. “Sometimes they are so young they don’t know the situation.
“They have nothing to lose.”
The Minutemen, who rallied in the seventh inning to beat Riverside’s Notre Dame in the second round, rallied again in the seventh to send the game into extra innings. Popham led off with a single to center field. Covey hit a slow roller for an infield single, and after a strikeout, Tony Li singled to left to load the bases. Myles Neimeyer flied to left field to tie the score.
“It was gutsy and there was a lot of heart to come back in the seventh inning,” DeHaan said.
Maranatha left the bases loaded in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.