Huntington Beach Wins Its Second NHSI Title With Seven-Run Ninth Inning

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Huntington Beach 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 7 8 8 2
JSerra Catholic 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 7 2

BOX SCORE - PLAYS - CUMULATIVE STATS: Huntington Beach | JSerra Catholic

CARY, N.C. -- The Oilers’ offense exploded in the top of the ninth inning with two triples and seven runs, and Huntington Beach won its second National High School Invitational title in an 8-1 extra-innings thriller over JSerra Catholic on Saturday at the National Training Complex. It was the first NHSI championship game to go to extra innings since the inaugural event in 2012 when Mater Dei defeated Harvard-Westlake 3-2 in eight innings.

Huntington Beach (4-0) becomes the third school to win multiple NHSI titles, joining Mater Dei (2012 & 2013) and Orange Lutheran (2017, 2018, & 2019). The Oilers move to 18-6 all-time after making their sixth appearance in the annual event this year.

Huntington Beach jumped out to a lead in the third inning and seemingly controlled the game until the bottom of the seventh behind a stellar outing from tournament MVP Tyler Bellerose. Bradley Navarro led off the top of the third inning with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch to put a runner into scoring position. Then, coming to bat with one out, Tony Martinez continued his strong showing in the NHSI with an RBI-single up the middle to score Navarro.

From then on, the pitching and defense ruled the finale. Huntington Beach threatened in the top of the fourth and fifth innings, getting runners into scoring position, but could not come up with a clutch hit.

Andrew Lamb picked up his first hit of the tournament and JSerra Catholic’s (3-1) first hit of the game with a leadoff double to the right-centerfield wall in the fourth inning. Ryusei Fujiwara sacrificed Lamb over to third base to threaten Oiler starter Bellerose, but Bellerose got out of the jam with a flyout and groundout to shortstop Dean Carpentier.

JSerra Catholic first baseman Dominic Smaldino led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a single and advanced to second on a Martinez error, but the Lions could not capitalize. Charlie Caruso attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Trent Grindlinger went after the lead runner and threw him out easily before a flyout and a looking strike ended the inning. The Lions got another leadoff batter aboard in the bottom of the sixth, but Grindlinger threw him out trying to steal second, and Bellerose finished the inning with back-to-back strikeouts to keep the score 1-0 heading into the final frame.

Down to their final three outs, the Lions’ Trent Caraway launched a leadoff double down the left-field line, and Jonathan Mendez was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs and chase Bellerose from the game. Colin McNiven came on in relief and surrendered a sacrifice fly to Charlie Caruso, scoring Caraway and sending the game into extras.

The teams traded zeroes in the eighth, but the Huntington Beach offense exploded in the top of the ninth, beginning with back-to-back one-out singles from Martinez and Carpentier to put a runner into scoring position for Linkin Garcia. Garcia followed with a bloop single to right field that looked to load the bases, but an errant throw from the JSerra right-fielder scored Martinez to give the Oilers the 2-1 lead.

The Lions strategically intentionally walked Ralphy Velazquez to load the bases, but Aidan Espinoza picked up his first hit of the tournament with a monster triple to deep right-center field to clear the bases and extend the lead to 5-1. Grindlinger walked before JSerra went to the bullpen once again, and then Colby Turner welcomed Ryan Vaughn to the game by putting down a bunt to score A. Espinoza on the safety squeeze. Navarro then put the nail in the coffin with the second triple of the inning to bring the score to 8-1.

JSerra would get a runner on with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but a strikeout and groundout to the pitcher would end an exhilarating final.

Starting on the mound, Bellerose was outstanding for Huntington Beach in the championship game. He pitched six shutout innings before being responsible for the lone run in the bottom of the seventh, striking out six batters and scattering just four hits throughout his outing. McNiven came on in relief in the seventh and did not allow a hit before Otto Espinoza finished the game with two innings of shutout relief to earn the win.

JSerra Catholic starting pitcher Brodie Purcell lasted just three innings, giving up one run, but struck out three. Mcallister Zawistosk, Andrew Padova, Josh Hollis, and Jayden Graves followed with four innings of scoreless relief for the Lions, striking out a combined five batters. JJ Hollis suffered the loss after giving up six earned runs in his 1.1 innings.

Offensively, A. Espinoza’s (1-for-5, 3 RBIs) triple and multi-hit games from Navarro (2-for-4, 2 RBIs) and Martinez (2-for-4, RBI) paced the eight-hit performance by Huntington Beach. Caraway (2-for-4) led the offensive effort for JSerra with two clutch doubles in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings.

Bellerose’s stellar championship performance helped earn the sophomore MVP honors for the 2023 NHSI after he combined to strike out eight batters and give up just one run in his two appearances spanning nine innings. In addition to naming an MVP, USA Baseball announced the 15-member All-Tournament Team following the game.

2023 NHSI All-Tournament Team:

  • Tyler Bellerose (Huntington Beach) - MVP
  • Dean Carpentier (Huntington Beach)
  • Trent Caraway (JSerra Catholic)
  • Matthew Champion (JSerra Catholic)
  • Adam Ciccone (Hagerty)
  • Colin Clarke (Santa Margarita)
  • Bradley Gilbert (Aquinas)
  • Aidan Knaak (Bishop Verot)
  • Gunnar Myro (Bishop Gorman)
  • Bryce Nevils (Brother Rice)
  • Gavin Smith (Basha)
  • Ty Starke (St. Xavier)
  • Charley Sturm (Jesuit)
  • Cole Van Essen (Brother Rice)
  • Ralphy Velazquez (Huntington Beach)