The Granite Hills baseball team (shown cheering in a photo from last season) had even more to celebrate Wednesday when the Eagles defeated top-ranked Cathedral Catholic in the Lions Tournament.
EL CAJON — When Cathedral Catholic scored four runs against Granite Hills on Wednesday in Classic Division pool play of the 64th annual Lions Tournament, it appeared the only victory the Eagles would be playing for was a moral one.
Four runs may as well have been 400 — or so it seemed — with Cathedral left-hander Brady Aiken, the nation’s top pitching prospect, on the mound. Aiken came into the game with a 5-0 record and had allowed only two runs over 26 innings in five starts.
The moral of this story is never give up and never give in. The Eagles stunned top-ranked Cathedral for an improbable 6-5 baseball win. Good pitching may beat good hitting, but it’s difficult to overcome poor defense. Cathedral (14-2) made five errors in the game and all six Granite Hills runs were unearned.
The Eagles (10-4) meet Madison at 12:30 p.m. today at Cal State San Marcos in the Classic semifinals. The championship game follows at 3:30 p.m.
Aiken, under the watchful eyes of two dozen scouts, allowed four hits and four unearned runs with two walks and 11 strikeouts. He threw a fastball that touched 95 mph and accompanied it with a change-up and curve that had the Eagles flailing much of the time. But Dons errors extended innings and elevated Aiken’s pitch count. He was relieved with two outs in the fifth and the Dons’ lead down to one run.
“Their defense let them down a little bit and we took advantage of it,” said Granite Hills third baseman Jordan Verdon. “We just had to chip away enough to get Brady out of the game. We felt like if we could do that, then we could win. As a team, we always think we have a chance. ... Even when we’re down to our last strike.”
Granite Hills, still trailing 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, was down to its last strike three times. But the Eagles managed to load the bases. They scored the tying and winning runs when Cathedral third baseman Giovanni Garbella fielded Austin Dabbs’ grounder and threw the ball over first base. The loss ended Cathedral’s 12-game winning streak.
“It’s frustrating, but I think we’re going to learn a lot from it,” said Cathedral coach Gary Remiker, whose team had a 5-0 lead after two innings and collected only one hit the rest of the game. “I told our guys they shut it down. They were at a Sunday picnic.
“That’s a quality opponent. They took good at-bats. They got Brady’s pitch count up. We had to go to the bullpen. They scratched and clawed their way, put pressure on our defense, we made mistakes and that cost us the win.”
After Cathedral’s big first inning, Granite Hills coach James Davis said he told his team to “just keep picking away” and you never what might happen. Even when you’re up against the best pitcher around.
“Brady Aiken is something special,” said Davis. “Any time you can win a game where he’s pitching, it’s a pretty good win. He’s going to pitch a long time in a lot of big ballgames at a very, very high level. ... That’s the best part of it. We beat somebody who is such an outstanding player, and person. It’s exciting.”