Mater Dei 5, Bishop Amat 4
The season opener between two Southern California powers drew a standing room only crowd, even with a full slate of games around the area thanks to several high level tournaments going on. Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto summed it best, saying "it was everything it was cracked up to be."
Both teams sent their No. 1 starters to the hill, and they both cruised through the early innings. Bishop Amat LHP Daniel Zamora reportedly topped out at 89 mph in the early innings and was mixing in his quality changeup well to navigate his way through the deep and dangerous Mater Dei lineup. Mater Dei's Davis Tominaga was even sharper. Coming into the game Mater Dei coach Burt Call said he hoped to get five innings out of Tominaga, who reportedly topped out at 88, pitched into the sixth before reaching his pitch count.
Bishop Amat drew first blood, pushing a run across in the fourth on a safety squeeze. Nieto explained "when your facing a guy like Tominaga and there's not going to be a lot of offense, so we wanted to do whatever we could to generate some offense." Mater Dei answered back with a pair of runs in the bottom of the innings, starting with a one out rally by Ty Moore who singled, stole second, stole third and came in to score on a single by Jeremy Martinez.
Zamora began to tire in the fifth, Mater Dei was able to get two more runs off of him to push the score to 4-1. It appeared that Mater Dei was well on their way to an impressive opening day victory. But Amat 3B Rio Ruiz lead off the top of the sixth with a laser that one hopped the wall for a double. CF Scott Hurst, a player Nieto identified as one of Amat's keys coming into the season, followed with a two run Home Run down the left field line to cut the deficit to a single run.
Nieto said of Hurst "for a young guy like that to be able to step up at this caliber of high school ball, it's impressive." The momentum began to slip away for Mater Dei, who then brought in Ty Moore out of the bullpen. Moore pitched around a single by the first hitter he faced to preserve the one run lead.
Then in the seventh inning things got really interesting. After a leadoff walk, the Lancers bunted the tying run into scoring position. After an infield single Moore found himself with runners on the corners and Rio Ruiz coming to the plate. Moore bared down and struck him out on four pitches (three breaking balls) for the second out. RF Adam Alcantara (who had impressed with his throwing arm earlier in the game) got hit with the first pitch to load the bases. Hurst came to the plate with the bases loaded but down to the final out, and quickly got ahead 3-0, before laying off a close 3-1 pitch that just missed inside to even the score at 4-4. Moore quickly got the final out of the inning with a strikeout to preserve the tie.
In the bottom of the seventh Ruiz came on to pitch for the Lancers. After giving up a leadoff walk, Ruiz returned the favor to Moore by striking him out. After battling back from 3-0 against Martinez, Ruiz missed with ball four to push the winning run into scoring position. A deep fly ball by Ryan McMahon allowed the winning run to move within 90 feet with two outs. Ryan Barr stepped in with a chance to be the hero, but a passed ball on the first pitch put an end to what was a great back and forth battle. The final pitch from Ruiz was reportedly 95 mph.
Mater Dei head coach Burt Call said of his team's effort "they competed to win, they left it on the field. When Amat tied the game up and took the momentum away we found a way to pull it out." Adding "good teams find a way to win and our guys did that."
The biggest story to come out of the opener was the high school debut of Mater Dei 3B Brandon Perez. Perez, who played for Team USA's 14U national team last year crushed a triple in each of his first two at bats of his career before drawing a walk in his third plate appearance. Call said of his freshman "I wasn't surprised, he's played very well for us in the fall and he comes in with a lot of confidence."
Nieto said that what he takes away from his Lancers' performance is "we're heartbroken right now and licking our wounds a little bit, but I was proud of them, we traded punches with them and they didn't play afraid. They played tough like we want them to and we'll be better for it in the long run."
What he said about Mater Dei spoke volumes: "when it's all said and done, Mater Dei will be playing for a championship."
Expectations are extremely high for the Mater Dei Monarchs, as they opened the season ranked in the top five nationally. With 27 league championships and three CIF Southern Section titles to their credit (most recently in 2010) this is a program that is no stranger to the limelight. The Monarchs were highlighted in the National Game of the Week last year when they took control of the Trinity League for good with a 12-4 victory over JSerra.
Of course, Bishop Amat is no stranger to lofty expectations either. Last season it was the Lancers who opened the season ranked fifth in the nation. They stumbled out of the gate, losing their first two games before finishing the season 29-4 (12-0 in Del Rey League) and captured the CIF Southern Section Division 4 championship, the seventh in school history.
After the first update to the National Top 50 Rankings Mater Dei comes in ranked No. 4 and Bishop Amat at No. 18. The marquee opening matchup is part of the Newport Elks Tournament, which features 70 teams from across Southern California.The tournament format presents strategic challenges about when teams should use their top pitchers. Both coaches plan to go with their top starter.
Bishop Amat will give the ball to LHP Daniel Zamora, a Stony Brook commit who went 9-1 with a 1.43 ERA as a junior last year. The last time the Lancers took the field Zamora tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the Win in the CIF championship game at Dodger Stadium. Mater Dei will counter with 2013 RHP Davis Tominaga, who went 5-0 with a 1.12 ERA last year and earned a complete game victory over Hart in the CIF playoffs.
Mater Dei coach Burt Call said of his pitching utilization strategy "in a tournament like this you have to rely on your whole staff, especially playing Amat the first game. We'll use Tominaga against them, with (Ty) Moore available in relief, so we'll be counting on the rest of our staff in games two and three."
While the pitching matchup is very good, there are a few position players who will draw a large contingent of scouts. Bishop Amat 3B Rio Ruiz, who started at third for the (victorious) West team at the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic, is considered the top 2012 MLB Draft prospect in this matchup. Call said of facing Ruiz "he's a great hitter, game situations will dictate how we pitch to him but I'm a firm believer that we pitch to our pitcher's strengths." Sounds like the scouts will get to see the USC commit swing the bat.
He'll be opposed by 2011 WWBA World Championship MVP OF Ty Moore of Mater Dei. Moore, a UCLA commit is also consider to be a high level draft prospect whose performance this spring will not only be key to the Monarchs success, but also his draft stock. Moore is joined in the heart of the Mater Dei order by 2013 C Jeremy Martinez, a USC commit who is currently the No. 9 ranked player in the junior class (No. 2 in California).
Mater Dei appears to have the edge on paper, as they return seven starters. Call said his team compares well to last year's Trinity League champion, noting that they now have more pitching depth. Bishop Amat on the other hand will have to reload quickly if they are to defend their title. The Lancers return just three starters from 2011.
Bishop Amat coach Andy Nieto said "there is no substitute for experience, it is super important for us to get our younger guys experience playing against a great team like Mater Dei." Of course, he left out the fact that the three returning starters include a two-way All-American (Ruiz), an ace left hander (Zamora) and a power hitting two-way prospect (junior Adam Alcantara). While Mater Dei is a national powerhouse on paper, Amat is also a very talented team.
How quickly younger players step up will be huge for Amat, who will be counting on 2014 CF Scott Hurst out of the leadoff spot and SS Andrew Medina to play large roles for the Lancers. Mater Dei will give freshman Brandon Perez his first start at third base, a spot he will occupy when Tominaga is on the mound.
In spite of several other big matchups going on around California and the nation, Bishop Amat and Mater Dei have stolen the spotlight on opening day. Check back on Friday for the recap.
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