School’s out for summer, but the Murrieta Mesa Rams baseball team still shows up every day for practice, prolonging beach trips and vacations so they can finish what they started when the 2021 season got underway in March. The Southwestern League champions, who are the top-seed in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoff brackets, have advanced to the semifinals after taking down a Monrovia team that looked nothing but solid on paper.
Murrieta Mesa did what they have done best all season on offense by chipping away at the scoreboard with their steady bats all the while shutting down the opposing offense behind another solid outing by the Rams No. 1 starter, and utility player, Jhayden Raineri.
Raineri went up against Monrovia ace Coleman Mitchell, who had all the numbers leaning his way before the game. Monrovia had shut out seven of its previous eight opponents, including both playoff games and Mitchell’s numbers were impressive at 9-0 with a 0.37 earned run average and a .156 opponents’ batting average.
The Murrieta Mesa ace stood his ground and held the Wildcats (21-4) hitless through four innings, before Nathan Thompson drilled a double to the right field gap to lead off the fifth inning. The Wildcats loaded the bases with one out in the inning, but a scary play might have taken the wind out of their sails.
Pinch-hitter Dominic Teneriello hit a hard ground ball at second baseman Aidan Salcedo, but a routine double play went south when pinch-runner Jack Zinn failed to get out of the way of a throw by shortstop Carter Garate, which went directly into his face from close range. One run scored, but Raineri acted quickly to recover the ball and throw Sebastian Sanchez out at the plate to end the inning.
“It was a scary moment,” Raineri said. “I watched it happen from like 15 feet away and with all the chaos of the play, the potential of there being a bad injury, and the fact that we needed to still get out of the inning, I had to act quickly.”
The Rams unloaded on Mitchell for nine hits and had at least one in each of the five innings he was on the mound. Murrieta Mesa did not have a single extra-base hit, which was unusual for the hard-hitting Rams, but they used baserunning and situational hitting to move the momentum their way. Murrieta Mesa ended Monrovia’s defensive scoreless streak at 27 innings and pushed the lead to 3-0 in the third inning with a grounder to short on which Monrovia attempted to cut down three runners, but were unable to get any of them, as two runs scored.
The Rams blew the game open in the fifth inning, turning four consecutive singles and a Raineri squeeze play into three runs and a five-run lead. Raineri finished the four-hitter, striking out seven and walking three over the course of his complete game win. Garate and Colby Moran both had multiple hits for the top-seeded Rams (26-6), who will next play at Rancho Cucamonga in the semifinal round. The winner will move on to the CIF Southern Section Division 4 finals, which will be held on either Friday, June 18, or Saturday, June 19. More info can be found online by visiting www.cifss.org.
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