ESCONDIDO You can excuse the Escondido High baseball team if it changes school colors from orange and black to Mission Hills’ cardinal and gold on Thursday.
“We’re Mission Hills fans now,” Escondido senior pitcher Jordan Lewis said after he threw a complete-game three-hitter in 80 minutes Tuesday afternoon, beating No. 4-ranked San Dieguito 2-0.
With the win, Escondido improves to 14-11 overall and concludes Avocado East League play 7-5. San Dieguito falls to 23-6, 7-5.
Mission Hills (13-12, 4-6) can make it a three-way tie atop the league standings by beating rival San Marcos (14-12, 7-4) on Thursday.
“All we can do now is go over to San Marcos and root for Mission Hills to make it a three-way tie,” said first-year Escondido coach Aaron Hoofard.
The Cougars were 42-100 over the last five seasons, but, said Hoofard, “This has been an exciting year.”
Escondido was in position to win the league outright until losing a pair of games last week to rival San Pasqual.
“Maybe I put too much pressure on the guys,” Hoofard said. “So at practice Monday we sprayed the hose on each other, played kickball. And we played loose today.”
It helped that the Cougars had Lewis on the mound.
The right-hander allowed just three singles, two coming in the fourth when he was bailed out by a 4-6-3 double play started by second baseman Jake Krantz with a fine turn by shortstop Isaiah Johnson.
Lewis, who improved to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to 1.52, got 11 groundball outs, struck out three, didn’t walk a batter and retired the final 10 in a row in a 58-pitch performance.
“Everything was working — fastball, curve and change,” Lewis said. “I tried to pound the strike zone and let them get themselves out.”
Asked about the pressure of a big game, Lewis said, “I felt it more off the field. On the field, I’m focused on the game.”
San Dieguito coach Jack McDowell said his Mustangs are now focused on winning the San Diego Section Division III title.
“We deserve the No. 1 seed,” McDowell said of a team that was 16-1 coming into league play. “Honestly, I didn’t think we could lose two of three to a team in our league, but we did it twice (Mission Hills and Escondido).
“This was a weird game. Their kid did a nice job, threw strikes and we couldn’t barrel up a ball on him.
“The game was so quick, we never showed any energy. We need to get our intensity back and get ready for the playoffs.”