Nick Park helps deliver Division I baseball title to North Hollywood High

Nick Park, North Hollywood High's junior second baseman, stood down the first-base line at Dodger Stadium for the awards ceremony on Saturday afternoon after his team's 3-1 win over Banning in eight innings in the City Section Division I championship game. His bleached blond hair and smile told the story after his second triple and third hit of the game broke a 1-1 tie.

"Amazing, unbelievable" he said.

North Hollywood received a strong pitching performance from Maxwell Koster, who allowed two hits in seven innings. Catcher Robert Han-Dressor also played brilliant defense, saving potential balls in the dirt from going to the backstop and making strong throws to second. It was North Hollywood's first title since winning Division II in 2012.

The score was tied 1-1 going into the eighth when North Hollywood's Diego Velazquez singled against reliever Robert Guerrero and moved to second on a sacrifice. That's when Park hit the ball to right field and ended up with a triple. Cristian Calderon followed with an RBI single.

It was a game in which the defenses for both teams were tested with bunts and pressure-situation plays. North Hollywood failed on a suicide squeeze. Banning lost a run when its runner tagging from third on a fly ball was called out for leaving too early.

North Hollywood coach Eder Tapia, in his fifth season, hasn't had a home game since the 2019 season. The Huskies' baseball field no longer exists because of school construction. A new one won't be available for at least two more years. The team has been playing all road games and practicing at Van Nuys Sherman Oaks Park. Dodger Stadium was just another road venue, but Tapia, who played in the City final in 1999 for Sun Valley Poly, tried to tell his players what to expect.

"I told them to soak it all in, enjoy and relax," he said.

In the end, his players listened and performed at their best in the playoffs to emerge as champions as the No. 8 seed.

"He means everything to us," Han-Dressor said. "I'm very proud of him and thank him for coaching us."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.