OCEANSIDE — There was no hesitation on Dave Barrett’s part.
“Cory Abbott is a stud,” the Oceanside High baseball coach said of Serra’s senior pitcher/third baseman.
Monday, Abbott struck out 14 Fallbrook batters. Tuesday, the Loyola Marymount-bound Abbott had three doubles, two RBIs and scored a run as the Conquistadors beat Oceanside 6-1 in Division 4A pool play of the 64th annual Lions Tournament.
Despite being 2-0 in the tournament and allowing just one run, the Conquistadors must beat Santa Monica in a 3 p.m. game today at Serra to advance to Thursday’s 12:30 p.m. semifinal at Cathedral Catholic.
“I was ahead on the count, so I was sitting dead-red, looking for a fastball on all three of the doubles,” said Abbott, who is hitting over .400 and has 12 RBIs on the season for a team that improved to 12-2.
“I’ve been up and down at the plate this season. I was super hot early, slumped, now I’m climbing back.”
He also had the game-winning hit against Fallbrook.
The Conquistadors have been playing without their top hitter — Pat Britt, who was batting .440 with 10 RBIs when he went down with a quad injury.
“We’ve been kind of an under-the-radar team,” said Serra coach Chris Herrin. “We’re playing without Pat, so we need to do the little things — bunt, move runners over, take the extra base — that put pressure on defenses. We don’t let up.”
The Conquistadors had four sacrifice bunts in the game and took advantage as Oceanside played giveaway. Serra scored two runs on wild pitches and another on a passed ball.
“We lost the freebie war,” Barrett said. “We gave a good team three runs.
“Then they got clutch hits, and we left the bases full twice (in the second and sixth innings).”
The second inning was especially frustrating for the Pirates (7-8). With runners on first and second and two out, Cole Hyatt ripped a ball up the gap in right-center field.
One run scored, but Serra right fielder Austin Erickson made a nice play, cutting the ball off before it got to the fence. Had the ball reached the fence, two runs would have scored and Barrett thinks Hyatt might have had an inside-the-park home run.
“Huge play. Absolutely huge,” Barrett said.
Abbott may have to come up huge at the plate and on the mound if Serra, which won its division of the City Conference Tournament, is to win its bracket of the Lions Tournament.
“I’ve got three innings left on the mound, so maybe I can give the team something Thursday,” said Abbott, whose fastball sits at 87-91 mph and tops at 92, and might just be a pitcher at LMU.
“I’m still a little tight from the Fallbrook game, so I’ll ice my arm and see how it feels.”
Serra got a nice pitching effort from Alex Byrne, who improved to 6-0 with last-out help from David Dias.