Over the past five years an influx of baseball and softball talent has hit the area and CIF Championships have become a more familiar sight for the local programs. In 2013 and 2014 the Temecula Valley Golden Bears baseball team made it to the CIF-SS Finals, winning it in 2014, Murrieta Mesa won the CIF-SS Baseball Championships in 2016 and this year two local teams, the Murrieta Mesa softball team and the Tahquitz Titans baseball team, both brought home CIF-SS Championships. With the players only getting better, the valley could see much more success coming in the next few years.
For Hemet’s Tahquitz Titans (25-5), the road was long and head coach Ron Savage sacrificed many years for this season’s final win against Simi Valley’s Grace Brethren Lancers (24-5) in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 Championship game at The Sports Complex at UC Riverside Saturday, June 3.
The championship game would be everything you wanted from a pitching standpoint as both starting pitchers got out of jams in the early innings. Grace Brethren’s Pierson Ohl allowed a leadoff single but got out of the inning thanks to his defense and Brendan Dixon of Tahquitz was in control through nearly seven innings, allowing one unearned run while scattering just six hits and striking out eight.
“Dixon has three quality pitches and competes on the mound. He is something special and loves being in big roles,” Savage said.
Caleb Farmer, who went 2-for-4 with two RBIs, got Tahquitz on the board in the third inning when his two-out fly ball found a hole in the outfield scoring Norman Power from second base. Grace Brethren came right back to tie the game in the bottom of the third after Nicholas Johnson reached base on an error and scored on a single to center field from Ohl.
The game would stay knotted up through the sixth and with a ray of sunshine for the Lancers, Jahred Butler came in with the bases loaded for Tahquitz in the bottom of the seventh, getting a crucial strikeout to send the game into extra innings. Ohl worked into extra innings for Grace Brethren, getting one out in the eighth before reaching his pitch limit, but not before Power got on base again in the eighth. With Ohl out, Power then took second and scored on a Farmer single for a 2-1 lead. Butler returned for the bottom half garnishing a 1-2-3 inning to help the Titans claim their first CIF-Southern Section team title in school history with the win. Ohl had three hits and an RBI but took the loss as Grace Brethren (24-5) had its season-long 15-game winning streak snapped.
“I’ve been coming out of the bullpen all this year, so I was prepared for this moment,” Butler said. “I just had to come in and do what I do, and thankfully that’s what happened.”
For Savage, who has coached in seven one-run games the last two postseasons, the fact that they went extra innings seemed apropos to the long-standing Titans coach.
“The dynamic of this team is to raise my blood pressure and take years off my life, but to see that last out, it was nothing but pure joy and emotion,” Savage said.