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As it has been in nearly every game of this playoff run, the JSerra baseball team rode a big inning and their big arms to another CIF-SS Final.
JSerra senior Trent Caraway hit 4-for-4, including a two-run home run in a six-run second inning, and senior Matt Champion threw five scoreless innings on the mound to send the Lions over Corona, 6-0, in the CIF-SS Division 1 semifinals on Tuesday, May 16, at Corona High School.
Defending Division 1 champion JSerra now advances to its third consecutive CIF-SS title game. The Lions will play Trinity League champion and rival Santa Margarita for the fifth time this season in the Division 1 Final on Friday, May 19, at Blair Field in Long Beach.
“It’s going to be super fun. Us versus the blue school,” said Caraway, who played his first two high school seasons with Santa Margarita. “Red versus blue. We’re a rivalry. It’s going to be electric. Maybe one of the best CIF games ever played. It’s going to be super fun.”
JSerra is the first team to play in three straight CIF-SS Division 1 Finals since Fountain Valley in 1994-96 and is looking to be the first back-to-back Division 1 champion since Capistrano Valley in 2000 and 2001.
“Nobody remembers the losing team,” JSerra coach Brett Kay said. “They don’t remember the loser. I don’t want to be a loser again. It’s nice when you guys tweet about or write about we’re defending CIF Division 1 champions. It’s nice to hear that. It’s a feather in the cap. JSerra, we don’t want to settle for mediocrity. That’s our goal every year.”
Caraway, an Oregon State commit and currently ranked No. 67 as an MLB Draft prospect by MLB.com, was a triple away from the cycle on Tuesday with a single, double, two-run home run and bunt single. Caraway is the program’s single-season hits record-holder with 49 after topping 2017 No. 1 overall MLB Draft pick Royce Lewis’s then-record number (44) last week.
“It means a lot,” Caraway said of breaking Lewis’ record. “He’s a dude. He’s a guy. I just keep doing my thing. He’s a great player. It’s awesome to be mentioned with him.”
Caraway helped break the game open in the second inning.
Lou Fujiwara and Jordan Marian led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Following a sacrifice bunt by Tyler Dunning, Fujiwara scored on a sacrifice squeeze bunt by Dmitri Susidko, and Marian was sent home on a two-out RBI double by Andrew Lamb. Caraway then stepped up to drive in a two-run home run for a 4-0 JSerra lead.
Dominic Smaldino followed up with a double and scored on an RBI double by Jonathan Mendez. Charlie Caruso came up as the ninth Lions batter of the inning and drove Mendez home with an RBI single for the 6-0 JSerra lead.
That’s all the Lions scored, but it was all the Lions needed with Louisiana State-committed senior Matt Champion on the mound. Champion opened a little shaky with two hits and a walk in the first inning, but he escaped the bases-loaded jam with a strikeout, one of four in the game, and did not allow a run in five innings for the win.
Champion was pulled at the 75-pitch mark to keep him available to Friday’s Division 1 Final. JSerra and Santa Margarita split their four games this season with both wins for the Lions coming with Champion on the hill. By CIF rules, Champion will be limited to 15 outs against the Eagles.
JSerra senior Mac Zawistoski closed down the final two innings in relief with no runs allowed on two hits with two strikeouts. Zawistoski threw four innings of scoreless relief in the quarterfinals to pick up the victory last week.
During the regular season, Santa Margarita took two of the three Trinity League games against JSerra on March 15-17, and the Lions’ league win over the Eagles was Santa Margarita’s only league defeat. JSerra also defeated Santa Margarita in the semifinals of the National High School Invitational on March 31.
Santa Margarita defeated another Trinity League team, Orange Lutheran, in the CIF-SS semifinals on Tuesday.