By Ted Apodaca
One bad inning nearly ended the playoffs for the Cypress High baseball team as soon as it started. But the Centurions scratched and clawed their way back into the game, tying it up in the bottom of the seventh inning on an infield single.
That set up an extra inning bomb, as sophomore outfielder Noah Carter sent the Centurions into the second round of the CIF-SS Division 1 playoffs with an eighth-inning, lead-off home run that gave Cypress a 5-4 win over Mission Viejo, on Friday at Cypress High.
Cypress coach John Weber said, after the game, that he’s been privileged to coach a lot of good teams in his career. Still, a few have stood out.
“In all those years, I’ve only coached maybe a handful of just resilient groups and this group is resilient,” Weber said.
Carter had helped Cypress secure the Empire League title with a two-out, three run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning that led to extra innings and an eventual 5-4 Cypress victory. This time, Carter led off the eighth and pulled a curveball to left field that cleared the fence with dozens of feet to spare.
Carter said that Mission Viejo pitchers had been throwing a lot of curve balls throughout the game, so he was looking for one.
“That’s all I was expecting and I got it,” Carter said.
Mission Viejo had taken a 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Aided by a Cypress error, the rally also included a two-run home run by Alex Jemal. Mission Viejo was the third place team out of the South Coast League. Cypress had beaten them 3-0 early in the season, but Weber said they knew the Diablos would be a tough team to beat.
After the Diablos took their 4-0 lead, the Centurions got two runs back in the bottom of the second inning. Junior Tyler Chaffee led off with a single and scored when Carter followed him with a double. Two outs later, Carter scored on a single by sophomore Brett Wozniak.
The game was scoreless until the sixth inning. The Centurions loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but came up empty. In the sixth, Cypress showed its scrappiness. Junior Cameron Repetti led off with a walk, and then stole second base. He took third on a ground out to first base and scored on a groundout by Wozniak to cut the lead to 4-3.
In the bottom of the seventh, Mission Viejo got the first two outs before Elias Rios singled. Weber gave Rios the signal to steal and Rios stole second base. A wild pitch allowed Rios to take third, which gave Chaffee an edge at the plate.
“With the wild pitch, it changed the complexity of [the at bat],” Weber said.
Chaffee pulled a grounder down the left side. The third baseman made a diving stop, but with Chaffee hustling down the line, the hurried throw went wide as Rios crossed the plate with the tying run. Chaffee was thrown out trying to take second, setting up Carter’s heroics.
Cypress will play Hart High, the first-place team out of the Foothill League, on Tuesday at 3:15 p.m.