HEMET ---- Summer, they say, is here. That didn't keep a colossal snowball from rolling through Southwest Riverside County on Friday afternoon.
Three outs from its second semifinals berth in three years, Tahquitz's baseball team committed three errors in an 11-run seventh inning that turned a two-run lead into a 17-8 loss to Los Angeles Cathedral that stunned the host Titans in the CIF Southern Section Division V quarterfinals.
"I'm not really sure what to say," Tahquitz coach Ron Savage said after addressing his tear-stricken players. "This is a special group, and it started off as a great day. It just slipped away as the game went by."
The Titans (21-6) led 5-0 after a pair of two-run triples from Jesus Garcia and Michael Stewart in the third inning. After Cathedral rallied, Tahquitz again grabbed the lead at 7-6 on Anthony Crook's two-run triple in the fifth inning. When Ryan Miller scored on Tim Borst's suicide squeeze in the sixth, the Titans had a two-run cushion to hand to reliever Andrew Morovick, the winning pitcher in Tahquitz's nine-inning, roller-coaster win at Nipomo earlier in the week.
It wasn't enough.
Morovick hit the first batter he faced, one of five free passes in his 2 1/3 innings of relief, and the next 10 batters reached base before reliever Tim Borst recorded the first out of the inning. By then, Michael Palos and Julian Perez had each ripped three-run triples in a rally that sent 15 Phantoms to the plate and turned an 8-6 deficit into a ticket to next week's semifinals.
Savage was still baffled after the game.
"The only thing I can come up with was that road trip to Nipomo was a lot," he said. "And the emotional roller coaster of that game and the emotional roller coaster of this game seemed to take a toll, and it showed up there in the seventh inning."
Fielding errors complicated matters in the frame, too.
The left fielder dropped a catchable fly ball after Morovick hit the leadoff hitter. Then with the bases loaded, a grounder to third base could have started a double play. Instead, the third baseman's throw home was up the first base line and the home umpire ruled that it pulled catcher Miller off the plate, cutting Tahquitz's lead to 8-7 and chasing Morovick from the game.
Oscar Leong greeted Borst with an RBI single and Palos broke open the game with a three-run triple.
"I don't know why we fell apart or didn't trust each other," Miller said. "I've never done that before. ... We tried to calm down and play our game, but they took advantage of the mistakes we made."
The rally closed the book on a talented Tahquitz class that made its first deep postseason run as sophomores during the program's first full year of varsity action. Last year, the Titans were seeded No. 2 in the Division V playoffs before Linfield Christian knocked them off on the way to reaching the final.
"This is very difficult," Savage said. "It's hard to spend four years of your life with somebody, let alone five or six individuals. You almost feel a sense of fatherhood. I had them when they were real young and I couldn't ask for a better group of gentlemen to have coached.
"I'm proud of every single one of them."
Said Miller: "This team has had the biggest impact on my life. These seniors, we've played together for four years. It's going to be hard to move on to bigger and better things."