APTOS—The Aptos High baseball team finished the regular season with a Santa Cruz Coast Athletic League championship banner for the first time in a decade.
Yet, they had some unfinished business before they were able to call themselves the outright champ.
Senior ace pitcher Reed Moring took on the task to close it out with a brilliant performance on the mound in an 8-0 win over Scotts Valley High in Friday’s SCCAL tournament championship.
“I’m on top of the world,” he said. “I got to pitch in a great game, I got to pitch at a great, amazing, beautiful field. We expected it. We’re just having fun and now we’re on to playoffs.”
The UC Santa Barbara commit gave up just two hits and one walk while racking up a season-best 15 strikeouts for the complete game shutout win.
Moring now has 101 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings pitched this season. Three pitchers in the CCS have recorded more strikeouts this season: San Mateo High’s Austin Lachappelle (116), Soledad High’s Eric Segura (111) and Monterey High’s Nate Wedderburn (104).
The Mariners, who are riding a 12-game winning streak, had to go 10 innings in Wednesday’s semifinal battle against Harbor High.
Aptos pulled away for the 5-4 win. But head coach Jason Biancardi said they might’ve gotten a little too complacent after taking an early 3-0 lead on the Pirates.
“Before we knew it, we were down 4-3 and we had to get our energy back,” he said. “It’s never easy being down going into the sixth inning…today we had to stay up all seven innings and we did.”
Aptos sophomore utility player Edward Peters knew they had to come into Friday’s game with a lot more urgency.
“We were sort of losing momentum but we came back, we came back hard,” he said.
Moring looked solid from the start, retiring the side in the first two innings.
He didn’t allow a batter to reach base until the fourth after he gave up a walk to Quinn Turowski. He also tagged Matt Morrison with a pitch, putting runners on first and second base for the Falcons.
Moring was able to get out of the jam with a strikeout, keeping the shutout intact. He mentioned he wasn’t hitting as many strikes as the first few innings, but he still felt comfortable down the stretch.
“I can get guys out still, I was still calm with it and let my defense do the work, basically,” he said.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo commit Owen Dueck had a SportsCenter Top-10 moment with an incredible over-the-shoulder catch in the sixth inning.
“That’s some Odell Beckham-type stuff right there,” Moring said. “I got very lucky, it wouldn’t have been a shutout win.”
On offense, fellow sophomore teammate Jorden Espinoza meticulously made his way around the bases for the first run of the game.
It started with him drawing a walk, then he stole second base, followed by a trip to third on a fielder’s choice and then finally reaching home plate on an errant throw by the defense.
The Mariners poured in seven runs in the third including a three-run triple by Peters, who smashed a line drive hit to left field to clear the bases for a 7-0 lead with one out.
“Our team’s on a roll right now, 12 in a row. We can’t be stopped right now,” he said. “Our chemistry is amazing. It’s just great being on this team.”
Peters was able to cross home plate after Matt Hood drove him in to cap off the scoring for the Mariners.
Aptos (22-6, 14-1) has one final non-league game against San Benito (19-7, 19-2), winners of the Pacific Coast Athletic League’s top-tier Gabilan Division.
The Balers are ranked No. 14 in the Central Coast Section baseball rankings on the MaxPreps website, while Aptos sits at No. 18 on the list.
Both teams already earned CCS postseason berths. Now it’s about playing the waiting game to see who and what division they wind up in.
The CCS seeding meeting will take place May 19.
“It doesn’t matter, we’re going to play our best and do our thing,” Moring said. “We’re going to come out hungry no matter what. Even if we’re facing the top teams.”
Biancardi, who received a celebratory water cooler bath after the game by Jack Spinelli and Gabe Gaeckle, believes they’ll be placed in the top division based on having the second most CCS points earned this season.
Biancardi said he’d love to have a home game in the playoffs but at this point they’ll play anyone standing in their way.
“With our pitching and if the guys can get the bats going to move runners over, we should be fine,” he said. “The kids are great right now, the energy is great, 12-game win streak, keep riding it.”