Starting pitcher Eric Silva was standing on the mound, glove and ball hidden under his arm, as San Juan Capistrano JSerra coach Brett Kay approached the mound.
Silva was in 85th place in this Southern California Division I championship game against Chino Hills Ayala. Runners were on second and third with one out in the sixth round, the Lions led 4-0. If Silva allowed a runner first, Kay told him he would be taken out.
This was the last match in Silva’s senior season. The last of the team’s season. The last of the wild ride with restrictions that every program in Southern California had overcome. That ball was left in Silva’s glove.
“He would not come out,” Kay said after the game.
Silva went all seven innings in a 5-1 JSerra victory to claim the regional title, allowing a lone run via a sacrificial fly in the sixth inning before whipping Ayala left fielder Ryan Moreno.
Silva gave up only one hit against a team that had beaten. 361 on the season, hitting 11.
After starting in JSerra’s loss to Studio City Harvard-Westlake in the Southern Section Open Division championship game last weekend, he wanted to redeem himself.
“I just wanted to be dominant on the mound,” Silva said.
JSerra midfielder Gabe D’Arcy went two to three with three RBIs to drive the team’s offense.
In the third round, the Lions put together a two-out rally that brought home three races, capped off by a solo moon over the fence to the left of designated hitter Luke Jewitt, whose status was up in the air for much of the week due to a drawn hoarding.
Both teams played with “house money”, as Ayala coach Chris Vogt put it. Both had previously lost in the playoffs in the southern section and had a new shot in the regionals, thanks to the Open Division semi-finalists having the opportunity to advance. Harvard-Westlake chose not to participate.
It was a strange feeling to play games so far into June, Kay said – normally they would be eight or nine competitions for a summer slate. Seven JSerra players chose to end the seasons early and not participate in the regionals, leaving Kay with 18 on the list instead of his usual 25.
Still, after all the strange feelings the 2021 season has brought, JSerra stands alone on the mountain top.
“I feel we are one of the best teams in the country,” said Kay.