Q&A: Defending Champ Huntington Beach Returns to Cary for 2024 NHSI

Huntington Beach Head Coach Benji Medure relives 2023 title, talks NHSI experience

In 2023, Huntington Beach captured its second National High School Invitational title and first since 2016. Benji Medure, who is currently in his 24th season at the helm of the Oilers, will bring his team to Cary for the seventh time in the history of the event.

USABaseball.com caught up with Medure to relive last year’s NHSI title and talk about the experience of the prestigious event.

Q: Going back to last year your team went undefeated en route to capturing the NHSI title, and along the way you beat some tough teams and faced some tough pitching. How proud were you of that team for bringing home a second title?

A: “Before we left for Cary, I said, ‘Look, I'm going to be totally honest with you. It is hard to win this thing. And all 16 teams before they fly out are saying that they’re bringing that title back to wherever they’re from. They're not going there to lose.’ And yeah, it takes a little bit of luck, a bounce here and there to win it. But the last thing I said was, ‘Now with that said, I don't have a doubt in my mind that we could win this thing.’ The look on their faces of determination and confidence showed that they were willing to do what it took to win, and they didn't care who got the credit. How we pulled together as a team and how well we performed was what I was most proud of last year; just talking about it makes the hair on my arms stand up. Coming together and loving each other was how we won it last year.”

Q: What was the feeling like after the final out of the championship game and it was official that Huntington Beach had won the NHSI?

A: “It was one of those special moments that I’m lucky to have in my memory bank. We always finish off every win that we have as a coaching staff with a handshake, but after that game we gave each other a hug. I was lucky enough to have my high school coach [Jim McNamara] with us; it was very cool to share that moment with him. He made the trip with us last year, and he’s making the trip again this year on his Harley because I’m very superstitious, so we'll see what kind of magic we can create.”

Q: Huntington Beach has now won two NHSI titles and has made some great runs in in past years. The event always showcases some really strong teams and standout players, so what does it mean to have had so much success in this tournament?

A: “I think it speaks volumes of the competition in Southern California. I know everyone talks about the amount of Southern California teams that have won or been in the championship game in this tournament, and it's been a dominant run. And that's not to say that there isn't great baseball in Florida or Georgia or New York, or wherever the teams are coming from, but to have the success that we have had, when we're there, just proves that we're battle tested, and we're battle tested because of our area. You have to give a lot of credit to the schools around our area for being so competitive and having quality coaches and programs in the Orange County area. Iron sharpens iron, and so when we get to Cary, I think we're ready. We’re battle tested and it's a testament to Orange County baseball.”

Q: What is it about the NHSI that you think makes it special and different to anything else your team plays in?

A: “There’s a ton of things that make it so special – the interviews, the postgame celebrations, and obviously the trophy is a huge deal. The trophy is freaking awesome; we’ve got two of them and they are the signature pieces of our clubhouse. More than those things though, I think the memories that are created are because of the people of USA Baseball. The people you meet at this event and the way they take care of you and support you is so genuine. There are so many people that I’ve met in North Carolina that I’m still close to this day. I remember in 2016 when we played Trinity Christian in the quarterfinal game, and I had never seen a team with the energy they brought. They jumped on us early with five runs, but we ended up coming back and scoring 11 to win that game. Gil Morales, who was the coach at the time there, and I are close to this day, and we still talk about that game. It was one of the greatest baseball games I’ve ever been a part of because of the intensity and passion that was shown by both teams. The intensity of the week really brings out the best in people, and it’s something that creates lifelong memories and relationships.”

Q: For the new guys on your team who maybe haven’t played in the NSHI before, is there anything you’ve told them or will tell them before you head to Cary as a word of advice or what it’s like?

A: “I say this to everybody that's new that this tournament is it’s not about winning. It's about having fun and just enjoying the experience, because the experience is so unique and is so intense that if you get wrapped up in the act of winning or trying not to lose, you don't enjoy it. I think having been there six times, I can just sit back and enjoy all those little moments. I remember last year in the semifinal game against Bishop Gorman, a couple of my players and I were just looking at each other kind of giggling and laughing like, ‘Oh man, here we go, like this is so intense.’ It can make you feel so sick to your stomach and wreck you if you let it because you don't want to lose, but in year seven of competing in this thing I'm past that now. I'm out there just enjoying every single moment and try to teach those young kids to just enjoy it. Win or lose, we're going to be together and we're going to fight together. I want them to go in with big eyes and then open up their hearts and just have as much fun as possible.”