Zion Lutheran Wins District 2A-13 Title By Defeating Sheridan Hills
Zion Lutheran and Sheridan Hills both came into Thursday’s District 2A-13 championship game looking to make history. For the first four innings, it looked as if Sheridan Hills would avenge two earlier losses to the Lions. In the fifth, Zion flipped the script and came away with a 6-2 victory and the district title. Head coach Jose Piedra was emotional and thankful after the game.
“Today’s district championship would have never happened if it was not for my coaching staff and the player’s we have here,” said a choked up Piedra. “I have two of my ex-high school players that came back and gave up playing minor league ‘ball to help me out, and the kids have worked extremely hard, I’m just so happy for everybody.”
Zion Lutheran will host a regional quarterfinal next Thursday, and Sheridan Hills will travel to play in another.
Sheridan Hills made the strategic move in the first two match-ups with Zion to keep their ace, Chris Meyer, off the hill. Knowing the district title would be on the line later in the year, the Sharks chose not to show their ace in the earlier games, and the move nearly paid off Thursday afternoon.
Meyer gave up only only one run in the first four innings. The run was a result of a double steal by Bobby Barradas and Alex Ernestine. Outside of that run, Meyer was in control, allowing only three hits in the first four frames.
Meyer also played a big part in the 2-1 lead the Sharks took into the fifth. In the third, trailing 1-0, the Sharks ‘ Thomas Davis hit a two-out single, and Meyer then crushed a hanging curve ball for a two-run homer. The pitch was one of the few that Sheridan Hills made solid contact with on the day, as Lions starter Ernestine was dominant throughout.
Ernestine struck out at least one Sharks batter in all seven innings, finishing with 10 on the game. Ernestine faced the minimum over the last four innings of the game.
“I feel this was my best outing of the season,” said Ernestine. “I have a lot of confidence in my team, and today they played great. They had great at-bats, they played great defense, and I’m glad we came out on top.”
Ernestine may have been a tough-luck loser had the Lions not erupted for three runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Zion used fundamental baseball to get on the board in the fifth. With one out, John Mendez reached first base on an error. Eric Hepple then singled, before Ryan Ritter also reached on an error. Barradas then pulled off a suicide squeeze, and when the ball was thrown down the right-field line, all three runners scored.
“That’s something we’ve been preaching to them all year,” said Lions assistant coach Julian Cabrera, when speaking of the sacrifice bunts. “We work hard at practice on fundamentals, and today all of the boys hard work paid off.”
In the sixth, the Lions again used their bunting ability to produce runs. Blayne Baker reached on a error to lead off the inning, and moved to second on a sacrifice by Nick Vazquez. Manny Rojas followed with an infield single, and Mendez sacrificed Rojas to second, putting runners on second and third with two outs. Hepple then drove in the two runs with a high fly ball that dropped on the left-field line for a base hit.
From there, Zion turned the game over to Ernestine, who retired the final six Sharks in order and secured the district title for the Lions.
Despite the loss, Sheridan Hills will move into the regionals next week, but will have to go on the road. If the Sharks win in Miami, they could be right back at Zion on May 8 for a regional semifinal.
“We’re going to go into regionals next week and give it our best shot,” said Sharks assistant coach Dan Keefe. “Hopefully, we’ll get another shot at them and make a few more plays than we did today.”