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By Zach Cavanagh

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO – Just over a week ago, the San Juan Hills baseball team learned it would lose its top two pitching arms – seniors Tanner Duke and Ryan Chadwick – for the rest of the season due to injury.

With the season reaching the teeth of the Sea View League schedule, where would the Stallions turn to capture their two biggest league victories? Another senior pitching arm.

Senior right-hander Logan Poyner tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings with six strikeouts to help shut out San Clemente, 3-0, on Monday, April 11, at San Juan Hills High School. Senior Ethan Wolf closed out the final two innings without allowing a hit to seal the shutout.

San Clemente (12-9, 3-2) hosts the next game in the series on Wednesday, April 13, and the teams close the series on Friday, April 15, back at San Juan Hills (13-9, 2-4).

“Today, I was rolling,” Poyner said. “In the ‘pen, I was feeling good, and I knew it was going to be a great day. Glad I executed, and my teammates made some diving plays to save me, save some runs. It’s a good team win.”

Poyner also threw five innings with one earned run against in San Juan Hills’ other league win – a 2-1 win at San Clemente on March 25. Poyner said he felt like he knew the batters this time around and was more comfortable. The senior allowed just two hits and three walks on Monday.

“He’s definitely been (one of those guys that’s had to step up),” San Juan Hills coach Bret LeVier said. “He threw a five-inning gem against them last time, and from the start of the season, he’s just gotten better and better and better. From a coach’s standpoint, you want guys that you know what you’re going to get. We know he’s going to go out and compete. We know he’s going to throw strikes.”

LeVier said his team has thrived on pitching, defense and timely hits, which were all present against San Clemente.

Poyner came out of the gate attacking the strike zone and earned a strikeout in each of the first three innings. Poyner was backed up by his defense in the third inning with a diving catch in right field to prevent San Clemente’s first hit. Check and check on LeVier’s first two points.

The timely hits arrived in the bottom of the third inning for San Juan Hills. Junior Jackson McKay reached on an one-out infield hit, and McKay scored on a two-out single by senior Jason Fritz. Senior Cooper Allen followed up with a single, and junior Kaden Aimer drove home Fritz with a single to put San Juan Hills up 2-0.

San Clemente didn’t threaten San Juan Hills until the sixth inning. Senior Steve Eisenhauer led off with an infield single – just San Clemente’s second hit of the game – and the Tritons loaded the bases with one out on walks by juniors Rhyn Chambers and Chase Brunson.

The walks forced Poyner out of the game, but Wolf steered the Stallions out of danger with a strikeout and flyout to maintain the shutout.

Aimer manufactured one more San Juan Hills run in the bottom of the sixth on San Clemente mistakes. Aimer reached on an error and advanced to second on a balk. The junior would score on a wild pitch to put the Stallions ahead by three runs, 3-0.

San Clemente got a leadoff walk from sophomore Brock DellaVedova in the seventh, but Wolf sat down the next three Tritons batters, including two strikeouts, to close out the San Juan Hills win.

“It’s kind of like every game is a playoff game from now on,” LeVier said. “We put ourselves in a hole early on. We just preach that we have to win one at a time and not focus down the road. It was good to have them stay focused and engaged today. Hopefully it’s a good momentum-builder for the rest of the week.”

Following this series with San Clemente, San Juan Hills has a pair of games against Aliso Niguel and Trabuco Hills each of the next two weeks. In its first four games against the Wolverines and Mustangs, the Stallions only scored three runs while allowing 27.

San Clemente currently sits second in the Sea View League after scoring two wins over Aliso Niguel and stealing a win from league favorite Trabuco Hills on April 1. San Clemente has three games against Trabuco Hills next week and two games against Aliso Niguel to end the regular season.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is multiple California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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