By Steve Ramirez
Bishop Amat’s slow start to the high school baseball season is ancient history. The Lancers, after losing their first two games, now look like one of the best teams in the state, if not the nation, after taking down another traditional power on Wednesday.
Bernardo Zavala hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and Ryan Serrato was dominant on the mound in relief to lead Bishop Amat to a 2-1 victory over San Diego Section power El Capitan of Lakeside in a National Classic semifinal game at Cal State Fullerton. (To continue click thread).
2011 Hard 9 National Classic in Orange County
Bishop Amat 2, Lakeside El Capitan 1
Esperanza 9, IMG Academies 2
Thursday’s championship game
At Cal State Fullerton
Bishop Amat vs. Esperanza, 7 p.m.
The Lancers, who beat St. Francis of Mountain View, ranked No. 1 by Baseball America, on Tuesday, improved to 19-2 and advanced to face Esperanza in tonight’s championship game, scheduled for 7 p.m. at Cal State Fullerton. The Aztecs beat the Lancers 7-5 on March 5.
This will be Amat’s first appearance in the National Classic title game since winning the tournament in 2001 and ’02.
El Capitan, which was ranked No. 6 nationally by MaxPreps.com to begin the season, slipped to 13-5. The Vaqueros play in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. against IMG Academies of Bradenton, Fla., also at Cal State Fullerton.
“It was one of those games were we faced a front-line pitcher (El Capitan’s Troy Conyers),” Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto said. “He made a mistake and we hit it.
“(Zavala) was able to put us ahead. That’s really what hitting is about. It’s about hitting pitcher’s mistakes. When the pitcher’s on, there’s not a lot of offense, so you have to be ready when he makes a mistake.”
The Lancers also showed some mental toughness, taking an initial hit before responding to win their 19th consecutive game.
El Capitan, which beat Alemany and Bingham of South Jordan, Utah to advance to the semifinals, took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a lead-off double by Curren Facer and a triple by Spencer Nielson.
Bishop Amat countered in the fourth. Rio Ruiz worked the count before drawing a two-out walk. Zavala, after falling behind 0-2, then drilled Conyers’ third pitch for a home run to center field and a 2-1 lead.
“He’s really good,” Zavala said of Conyers, who has committed to Pac-10 power Stanford. “He got me down two strikes, and I was able to get a good pitch and hit it out.”
Serrato, who relieved starter Eddie Munoz in the third, made it stand, giving up just one hit and striking out six in 4 2/3 innings to improve to 3-1.
He also foiled an El Capitan’ rally in the sixth. The Vaqueros threaten when Tyrone Wiggins led off the inning with a bunt single before stealing second and advancing to third on a Sheldon Gabriels’ fly ball to center field.
Charles Moorman was intentionally walked before Conyers and Facer fell victim to Serrato’ curveballs for back-to-back strike outs to end the chance.
“He was able to get out of it,” Nieto said. “His breaking ball was working real well, and he was throwing strikes.
“He was mixing up his pitches and did a good job of throwing his curveball for strikes. That was the key.”
Serrato hit Eric Lozano to begin the seventh. But after a sacrifice bunt by Elden Whisman, hed followed by striking out Nielson before Josh Tullege flied out to center field to end the game.
“We’re just on fire right now,” Zavala said. “We’re just trying to stay alive (in this tournament); pretty much just trying to win, do whatever we can as a team to win.”