Southern Section baseball playoff openers provide more drama than expected

The opening week of the high school baseball playoffs was all about turning loose ace pitchers.

There was Zach Strickland of Maranatha striking out 17 while throwing a no-hitter in a Southern Section Division 2 win over Royal. There was Gary Morse of Orange Lutheran throwing a one-hitter in a Division 1 win over Sierra Canyon. There was Cade Townsend of Santa Margarita striking out 11 in a Division 1 shutout against Tesoro.

There was Dylan Volantis of Westlake striking out 10 while giving up only two hits in six shutout innings against Mira Costa in Division 2. There was Wylan Moss of Mater Dei throwing a four-hit shutout of Damien in Division 1. There was Jackson Klein of Santa Monica throwing his third no-hitter of the season in a Division 5 shutout of Nogales.

There was Travis Maxwell of El Dorado giving No. 1-ranked Corona all it could handle, throwing six innings of shutout ball in a Division 1 opener until Billy Carlson hit a walk-off home run for a 1-0 Corona win in the seventh.

Boston Bateman of Camarillo gets excited after a fourth-inning strikeout with the bases loaded against Dos Pueblos.

Boston Bateman of Camarillo gets excited after a fourth-inning strikeout with the bases loaded against Dos Pueblos.

(Craig Weston)

Perhaps no pitcher is more intriguing than Camarillo’s 6-foot-8 left-hander Boston Bateman, who has given up just eight hits in 53 1/3 innings. He allowed two hits while striking out eight in 5 1/3 innings in the Scorpions’ 9-0 win over Dos Pueblos in their Division 4 opener.

His size alone makes him stick out. He throws fastballs in the mid-90s and also has an effective curveball. He didn’t pitch as a freshman and pitched only sparingly as a junior, so in two seasons, he has earned himself a scholarship to LSU and could be a first- or second-round pick this summer in the amateur draft.

“Over the course of my high school career, I’ve grown into my body and that’s been the key,” he said. “Just getting more comfortable on the mound and getting used to high school baseball has been good.”

He has 110 strikeouts and 33 walks while being on a pitch count to protect his arm. He overpowers most high school hitters, which allows him to escape jams with men in scoring position. His command has become much better since early in the season. Four times this year he has combined with teammates for no-hitters.

Camarillo’s principal, Matt La Belle, won two CIF championships coaching at Simi Valley in 2004 and 2008, so he knows a good pitcher when he sees one.

“I think he is really good and has upside,” he said. “Absolutely A-plus young man and student.”

Bateman is also a top hitter and knows how to fire up his teammates. On Friday, with the bases loaded, he got a strikeout and walked off the mound showing emotion.

“I wanted to fire up my team,” he said.

Camarillo's Tostado triplets stand beside each other in light blue baseball uniforms

Camarillo’s Tostado triplets: Nate, left, Victor and Nick.

(Craig Weston)

Camarillo is unique in another way in that it has triplets making major contributions in Nick, Nate and Victor Tostado.

Perhaps there was no more drama than Hart and Simi Valley playing 14 innings in a Division 2 opener before the Indians won 5-4 on a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 14th inning to delay the retirement of coach Jim Ozella. Brady Werther hit a two-run home run in the seventh to tie the score for Hart and had an RBI double in the ninth to tie the game again.

Second-round games are scheduled for Tuesday. Among the intriguing matchups is Corona playing at Mater Dei in a rematch of the Boras Classic championship game.

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