By MARK E. STRODER
For The Californian
MURRIETA----If you were randomly choosing players for a scrimmage game, and based your selections on how each player filled out their uniform, 5-foot-9, 155-pound Jeff Moberg and 5-10, 145-pound Joven Afenir would both be picked in the later rounds.
But once they swing a bat or throw a baseball, it would be evident that each should be a lottery pick.
Moberg homered and pitched a scoreless seventh inning to earn a save, and Afenir got the most important out of the game, helping Vista Murrieta hang on for a 3-0 victory over Simi Valley Royal in the first round of the CIF-Southern Section Division I baseball playoffs Friday.
The Broncos (22-5) will face Long Beach Wilson in the second round next Tuesday. The home team will be determined by a coin flip.
"Baseball is not a sport where you have to be super big, or tall, like basketball," said Moberg, a junior who just accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Cal State Fullerton. "You can be whatever size you want, you just have to have the heart and will to play."
Said Afenir: "It's not about how big you are. It's really how athletic you are, and how well you know the game."
The Broncos played a nearly flawless game through 5 2/3 innings. Then things got a little dicey.
Vista Murrieta had a 2-0 lead, and sophomore starting pitcher Tyler Russell had a no-hitter going with two outs in the sixth. Royal (20-9) leadoff hitter Jerrett Maas singled sharply up the middle to break it up.
Russell then hit Nick Kinsman with a pitch. With the tying run at the plate, Vista Murrieta first baseman Clayton Antista snuck behind Kinsman, and Russell threw a perfect pickoff throw to first, where Antista appeared to apply the tag.
But the umpire at first ruled Kinsman safe.
"I thought we had him picked off," Russell said. "We'd been waiting for a chance to use that play."
"It was absolutely perfectly executed," said Vista Murrieta first-year coach Kurt Ruth. "The umpire said (Antista) tagged the runner on the elbow. We saw it differently, but what are you doing to do?"
Russell walked the next hitter to load the bases. Ruth summoned Afenir from right field to the mound.
"It shows you the kind of confidence I have in Joven," Ruth said. "I believe in Joven. The kid's a winner.
"He's a natural baseball player. Everything he does is easy. I know in that situation, he wants the ball, and he can get the job done for us."
Afenir, a sophomore, calmly struck out Royal cleanup hitter Justin Greco on an outside-corner fastball.
"I'm confident in these positions because I've been doing it for awhile," Afenir said. "It's so much easier when you hit your spots, and I was able to do that."
Moberg led off the bottom of the first with a home run to left-on the first pitch from Royal starter Ryan Blakely.
"I'm just looking for the best fast ball, middle in, that I can drive and put a good swing on it," Moberg said. "It was a great way to start the playoffs."
Reserve infielder Tyler Rausa hit a pinch-hit home run to left in the bottom of the sixth, extending the Broncos lead to 3-0.