BASEBALL: Maranatha goes for second CIF baseball title

The Minutemen face off against No. 1-seeded San Jacinto in the CIF-SS Division VI baseball championship game Saturday at UC Riverside’s Sports Complex.

A Note: We will have live blogging like we did from Bishop, so if you can’t make it to the game, you can follow the action on the blog.

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Question: Will the Minutemen bring home a title?

CIF-SS Division VI Baseball Championship
Maranatha (18-10-1) vs. San Jacinto (21-8)
UC Riverside Sports Complex
When:
3:30 p.m.
Price: Admission is $5 for children (13 and under) and students (with high school ID) and $9 for adult general admission for the entire day. Parking is $5.
Directions: 60 Freeway east to 3rd Street/Blaine Street exit, left (east) to Rustin Street, right to field.

By Scott Galetti, Staff Writer
PASADENA – If there was an award for most traveled team in the area, Maranatha High School’s baseball team would win hands down.
The Minutemen have taken playoff trips to Riverside and Bishop and are embarking on a second trip to Riverside, an excursion they have hoped for all season.
Maranatha (18-10-1) will take on defending champion and No. 1-seeded San Jacinto (21-8) today in the CIF-Southern Section Division VI championship game at 3:30 p.m. at the Riverside Sports Complex.
A victory would give the school its second baseball title in school history. Maranatha defeated Santa Ana Calvary Chapel 6-2 to win the Division V title in 1994.
The Minutemen advanced to today’s game with a come-from-behind, 11-6 victory at Bishop. The Tigers shut out Bloomington Christian, 5-0.
“They’re a solid baseball team,” Maranatha coach Brian DeHaan said. “They’re well-coached and they’re ranked No. 1 for a reason.
“I expect them to be prepared for this game, but I think our kids are as well.”
Both schools are moving up to Division V next season and would love to leave a mark in the CIF history books.
“We want to leave the division as the top-rated team,” San Jacinto coach Rick Zepeck said.
San Jacinto has outscored its opponents 206-129, including 48-12 in the playoffs, and features a balanced offense.
“We’re actually swinging the bats well in the playoffs but, basically, pitching and defense has really carried us the whole season,” Zepeck said.
Andrew Darwin, a small-school all-state performer last season, is batting .368 with two home runs and 27 RBIs. Matt Tanner (.333) has also driven in 27 runs, and leadoff man Sal Estanislao (.378, 18 RBIs) tops the team in batting average.
Junior Matt Oden (11-0, 1.94 ERA) will get the start for the Tigers. Oden threw five innings Tuesday and is available for five today.
“He just brings a lot of confidence with the rest of the players,” Zepeck said. “We could easily be 14-1 with him on the hill and he’s only had one bad game the whole season. The other three games that he could have won he went seven and eight innings and gave up two runs or less.”
San Jacinto also has a talented closer in Reuben Felipe (3-3, 1.54 ERA with seven saves).
“We have a lot of confidence in Matt and then we hand the ball off to Reuben Felipe, and it’s been very successful for us this year,” Zepeck said.
One statistic that stands out to Minutemen sophomore pitcher Dylan Covey is 171 strikeouts and 108 walks.
“On paper, their strikeouts-to-walk ratio isn’t that great, so if we can perform offensively and hold them defensively, I think we’ve got a good shot,” Covey said.
Covey (8-2, 0.69 ERA and 141 strikeouts) leads Maranatha’s pitching, along with junior Cory Popham (4-3, one save) and fellow sophomore Danny Beckwith (3-3).
Covey (.400 with three homers) leads the team with 27 RBIs, followed by Popham (22 RBIs) and Beckwith (20 RBIs). Jordan Calloway, who owns the team’s top batting average of .425, has driven in 18 runs.
The Tigers earned a 5-2 victory over Maranatha in the second round last season, but Zepeck expects the Minutemen to be much improved.
“I’m expecting a tough, low-scoring game,” Zepeck said. “I know the Dylan Covey kid is probably a lot better than he was last year, and he threw hard last year as a freshman, and I expect him to be very tough.”