SAN MARCOS The “Help Needed” sign is out, but with a 7-5 win over archrival Mission Hills on Saturday, the San Marcos High baseball team put itself in a position to win or share the Avocado East League title.
The Knights improved to 14-12 overall and 7-4 in league with one game to play. San Dieguito is also 7-4 with Escondido, which lost Friday and Saturday to San Pasqual, a game back at 6-5.
Escondido hosts San Dieguito on Tuesday. San Marcos wraps up league play Thursday with another game against Mission Hills.
“Thursday will be the biggest game of the year,” said San Marcos coach Jeff Dufek. “We need a little help to win it outright, but what better way to end the league season then by playing your archrival with a championship on the line. Really, that’s the spirit of sports.”
In a series that Dufek said has “been all about momentum,” Mission Hills (13-12, 4-6) beat the Knights 14-4 on Thursday, then the Grizzlies scored two in the first Saturday, one on a leadoff homer by pitcher Roberto Johnson.
San Marcos got one back in the second on a Dylan Hedburg homer, but Mission Hills appeared to take control after a three-run rally in the third.
The Knights, however, came right back with a six-run fourth, sending 10 batters to the plate with Cole Brooks driving in two with a single and Jason Foster hitting a three-run, opposite-field homer.
“Mission Hills took it to us the other day, and again early in this game,” Dufek said. “The difference is that we kept our composure this time and were able to take control.”
Another factor was the pitching of Hedburg.
The senior right-hander started the game in right field but was summoned to get the Knights out of the third inning. He went on to throw 4?2/3 innings of shutout ball, allowing just one hit.
“There was a lot of pressure, but it was a lot of fun” said Hedburg, who has fought through some shoulder stiffness. “Playing well against Mission Hills is very satisfying. We knew what was on the line today. We know what’s on the line Thursday. But we try to focus on one game at a time.”
San Marcos’ six-run rally came against Johnson, Mission Hills’ ace and a candidate for the league’s Pitcher of the Year.
“Roberto had given up one run in league play until today,” said Mission Hills coach Ken Putnam. “But he got a couple of pitches up, and in this park that’s going to hurt you.”