Orange Lutheran edges La Mirada for Division I regional baseball title

Orange Lutheran High starter Alex Chavez delivers a pitch against La Mirada in a regional baseball final Saturday.
Starter Alex Chavez allowed three hits in four innings during Orange Lutheran's 7-6 victory over La Mirada on Saturday at Hart Park. (Steve Galluzzo / For The Times)

Alex Chavez got a chance to finish a long journey he started this spring and on Saturday afternoon at Hart Park in Orange the 6-foot-3 senior right-hander made the most of his opportunity.

Chavez, who was his team’s opening day starter on the mound, settled down after a shaky first inning and gave up three hits with no walks and three strikeouts while earning the win in Orange Lutheran’s final game, a 7-6 triumph over La Mirada in the Southern California Regional Division 1 final.

Sophomore ace Gary Morse had pitched a one-hit shutout in the Lancers’ semifinal win over Trinity league rival Santa Margarita, meaning someone else would need to start Saturday’s final.

“I went out to dinner after the game Thursday and our coaches happened to be there,” said Chavez, a Loyola Marymount commit who has been in the program since his freshman year. “They said, ‘You’re getting the ball,’ and I was glad they gave me the chance.”

Kevin Jeon tripled to the fence in right-center field then scored on a fielder’s choice and UCLA commit Aiden Aguayo scored on a groundout to put La Mirada up 2-0 in the top of the first inning. The Lancers answered with five runs in the bottom half, highlighted by Vinny Hudson’s RBI single, a bases-clearing triple by Finnegan Stewart and a sacrifice fly by Hamilton Friedberg. The top-seeded Lancers (28-7) tacked on two more runs in the second to make it 7-2.

Louisiana State signee Derek Curiel, a senior outfielder and four-year starter, had one hit to finish his career with a school-record 119.

“Being down locks me in more and brings out the anger in me,” Chavez said. "I was upset at the time, but our team always comes back and dominates.”

Seventh-seeded La Mirada (25-8) rallied for three runs in the top of the seventh, but Orange Lutheran’s Ross Clark, a Grand Canyon commit, finished off three relief innings by striking out Travis Friend with a runner on first to end the game.

"I had no nerves. … I just go out there and throw the little white ball," Ross said. "This goes all the way back to early summer workouts. It's a blessing just having the ability to do this."

The Matadores were down to their last strike when Aguayo doubled to deep left field to pull his team within a run with two outs in the seventh.

“Ross has been dominant all year so I knew he’d do it,” Chavez said.

La Mirada, which had lost to Orange Lutheran 9-4 in the Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals, reached the regional final by upsetting No. 2 Torrey Pines 4-2 and No. 3 Huntington Beach 10-8.

Orange Lutheran lost 4-2 to Harvard-Westlake in the section semifinals before Harvard-Westlake and eventual champion Corona both opted out of the regional tournament.

"This banner will always be there when I come back and visit," Chavez said. "You couldn't ask for a better ending."

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.