The Yucaipa High School baseball team scored seven runs in the fifth inning to win the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 championship with an 8-1 victory over nationally ranked Beckman of Irvine. The game was held in front of about 3,000 spectators June 2 at Cal State Fullerton’s Goodwin Field.
Word of the win traveled fast to Yucaipa where the team was treated to a major league reception late Saturday after the bus carrying the team returned from Fullerton. With police and fire vehicles surrounding the bus with emergency lights glaring, a two-mile procession up Yucaipa Boulevard took place. In addition, former YHS slugger and current Chicago White Sox player Matt Davidson bought the team a pre-game dinner.
Yucaipa pitcher Tyson Heaton was mainly responsible for the celebrations by turning in yet another outstanding performance. He limited Beckman to six hits, one earned run and recorded his ninth complete game of the season. The junior right-hander improved to 12-0 with a 1.37 ERA. Heaton led all hitters by going 3-for-3. His single in the big fifth inning increased Yucaipa’s lead to 4-1. Heaton was the winning pitcher in four playoff games and saved another against Corona del Mar for Vinny Alvarez. In last season’s wildcard playoff game against Beckman, Heaton pitched a complete game and homered in a 3-1 Yucaipa loss.
It didn’t figure to be easy again this season for the Thunderbirds (28-5) against the Patriots, the No. 1 team in Division 2 who was ranked No. 16 nationally and entered having won its last 17 games. Beckman (26-4) had a chance to capitalize early when Yucaipa made three errors and misplayed a pop fly in the first two innings.
Those miscues plus three hits and a walk allowed Beckman to put runners at second base with no outs in each of the first three innings. However, Beckman could not break the game open and settled for a 1-0 lead in second inning on back-to-back doubles from Connor McGuire and Jake Groves. Heaton never gave his opponents another chance by allowing just three hits and no runs over the next five innings.
He was aided by run saving plays by first baseman Trent Luther, second baseman Jordan Andrade, and shortstop Joseph Lomeli, who also started a 6-4-3 double play to end a potentially disastrous third inning. Regarding his team’s early mistakes, first year YHS coach Ralph Grajeda said he told his team during the game “so what” about the errors.
When Yucaipa started to display its excellent defensive ability it seemed to discourage Beckman, allowing the game to take a radical turn in the bottom of the fifth when Yucaipa went offensive by sending 13 batters to the plate. Six singled, four walked, adding up to seven runs. The 45-minute rally caused Beckman coach Kevin LaValle to use five pitchers in the inning. Jacob Barriga started it with a one-out single. Tommy Rodriguez walked and Keyton Dawson singled to the load the bases. Lomeli walked to force in Barriga, getting YHS even at 1-1.
In front of its large fan base, Yucaipa quickly continued with run-scoring singles from Anthony Gibbons, Carpentier, Heaton, Andrade, another run scored on a walk to Luther and pinch runner Justin Kong scored on a wild pitch, good for the 7-1 lead. Andrade was impressive throughout the playoffs. In the semifinals four days earlier, he went 4-for-4 with two RBI to help Yucaipa to a 7-3 win over Ayala. His two-run homer was the difference in a 3-1 second round win at Corona del Mar.