Aytes might have never been 100 percent this winter after undergoing offseason knee surgery. But that didn’t stop the 6-7 first-year starter from leading the Lions in scoring (15.6) and being the most consistent contributor on a young team that frequently shuffled its lineup. Expect a healthy Aytes to be one of the county’s five best players next season.
A game this good deserved a dramatic finish. And it got one.
In the bottom of the seventh inning with the score tied, JSerra’s Joey Ponder laid down a two-strike squeeze bunt and pinch-runner Parker Johnson beat the throw to the plate, giving the Lions a 10-9 victory over Mater Dei on Tuesday in a Trinity League baseball game at JSerra High.
The teams are tied for first place in the Trinity League.
JSerra led by three runs, then trailed by five, in the wild game with the wild conclusion.
The three-game league series between JSerra and Mater Dei is tied at one victory apiece. They play their final league matchup of the season on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Mater Dei.
JSerra, ranked No. 3 in Orange County and No. 5 in CIF-SS Division 1, is 19-3 overall and 8-2 in league. Mater Dei, No. 2 in the county and No. 3 in CIF-SS Division 1, is 17-5, 8-2.
“This one was a must-win, if we want to win league,” JSerra senior Austin Hedges said.
JSerra’s Clay Williamson had two hits and two RBIs, Grant Davis had two hits and three RBIs, Trent Boras had two hits and scored twice, and Joey Ponder drove in two, including the game-winner on the final-play squeeze.
Mater Dei’s Ryan Teel homered twice, one a grand slam and the other a three-run homer, in back-to-back innings. The Monarchs’Ty Moore had three hits and drove in two.
The Lions took a 3-0 lead in the second inning, in which Williamson contributed a two-run single. Teel hit his grand slam in the Monarchs’ five-run fourth inning.
After JSerra scored a run in the bottom of the third to trim the Mater Dei lead to 5-4, Teel’s three-run homer led a four-run fourth inning that pushed the Monarchs’ lead to 9-4.
JSerra got two runs, including a solo homer by Tyler Krause, in the bottom of the fourth to make it 9-6. The Lions, led by Davis’ two-run double, scored three in the eighth to slice the Mater Dei lead to one run.
JSerra’s Nico Darras doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Parker Johnson, running for Darras, advanced to third base on Tanner Bily’s sacrifice bunt before scoring on the Ponder squeeze, with Johnson sliding across the plate just before Mater Dei relief pitcher Ryan Barr’s glove-it-and-shovel-it toss reached catcher Jeremy Martinez.
However you want to describe it, JSerra’s 2009-2010 year in athletics was its best ever, solidifying the high school’s reputation as a haven for scholar athletes and an emerging sports powerhouse.
Among the many highlights was the school’s first CIF championship in any sport — boys soccer, led by Orange County MVP Juan “Crabby” Gutierrez. Girls lacrosse also was Trinity League champs. And nationally-ranked high-jumper Harrison Steed earned his third CIF title.
Another major triumph was the football team’s victory over cross-town rival Santa Margarita Catholic High School – JSerra’s first Trinity League football win.
“In the highly competitive Trinity League, many predicted JSerra would never compete,” JSerra Athletic Director Jim Hartigan said.“Hard work and determination paid off this year with our first CIF title and many other team and individual accomplishments.”
JSerra’s commitment to continue to build on its athletic success was symbolized by the hiring of former two-sport Olympian Julie Swail-Ertel to run the aquatics program. Swail-Ertel was captain of the silver-medalist women’s water polo team in 2000 in Sydney, and was on the U.S. triathlon squad at the Beijing Games in 2008.
“We had a thrilling year across all sports, but we believe that the accomplishments of the past school year were just steps on our path toward achieving even greater goals moving forward,” Hartigan said.
JSerra teams in 2009-10 made 21 CIF appearances, including boys water polo, boys cross country, boys basketball, boys soccer, baseball, boys lacrosse, girls cross-country, girls basketball and girls lacrosse. There also were 12 individual appearances in CIF competition in swimming, track and field, and golf.
All this brawn, however, comes with brains – a tradition “that continues to make the JSerra family proud,” Hartigan said. This past year, the school had 207 scholar athletes, which are those with GPAs above 4.0.
Thirteen JSerra students committed to college athletic scholarships in 2010, and two are committed for 2011.
In addition, the overall average GPA of the school’s approximate 800 student athletes was 3.209, unweighted.
“As this past year proves,” Hartigan said, “we are well-positioned for the future with the combination of top-notch facilities, a well-trained staff, and our hard-working students, who show as much effort in the classroom as they do on the fields and courts.”
After winning its first Trinity League game in 15 tries, JSerra Catholic High School’s football team can add another first to its resume. The Lions are ranked among Orange County’s top 20 football teams.
The Lions (6-0) are ranked 19th by members of the Orange County media. They are ranked 9th in the prestigious Pac-5 division.
But Orange County Register sportswriter Steve Fryer urges caution in his column today.
“JSerra is climbing the ladder, but those rungs above – beating the likes of Mater Dei, Orange Lutheran and Servite – are going to be very hard to grasp,” he writes.
Still, he adds, beating Santa Margarita “remains a significant triumph for the school’s athletic program.”
The Orange County Register named its all-county baseball team today and two JSerra Catholic High School Lions topped the list – and Brett Kay was named Coach of the Year.
Slugger Austin Hedges was a first-team selection, and pitcher Joe Kurrasch was named to the second team.
“For a season (that) culminated a rapid rise with a young program in such a challenging league, Kay is the Register’s Orange County coach of the year in baseball,” wrote Register sports columnist Steve Fryer.
JSerra’s first Orange County Coach of the Year led The Lions to a 20-5 record and a No. 2 ranking heading into the playoffs. The Lions won the school’s first Trinity league baseball title and CIF playoff game before a second-round, 5-3 loss at Riverside Poly.