By: Derryl Trujillo

Inland Sports Senior Writer

RANCHO CUCAMONGA – Coming into Tuesday morning’s semifinal at Rancho Cucamonga High School, the Murrieta Mesa baseball team (divisional No. 1 seed) had not been shut out in 2021. Nick Sanchez changed that on Tuesday morning at 11:45am in a CIF-SS division four semifinal scattering four hits and striking out eight as the unseeded Cougars advanced to this weekend’s championship game with a 2-0 victory.

Murrieta Mesa had an opportunity right out of the gate to score against Sanchez in their half of the first. Carter Garate and Makana Olaso singled to give the Rams runners on first and second with two outs. Caden Byers struck out to end the threat.

Rancho Cucamonga’s Nick Sanchez allowed four hits, striking out eight as the unseeded Cougars advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 4 finals with a 2-0 victory over Murrieta Mesa. Valley News/JP Raineri photo

Sanchez said about his first inning escape “When I escaped that jam, I felt my confidence grow and start rolling from there.”

The senior added “If they got a hit off me, I just had to tip my cap to ’em and reset things. There was nothing else I wanted to do but stay out there and finish it off and I’m glad the coaches gave me that opportunity.”

Rancho Cucamonga broke through in the second as Wilson Dunn had an RBI single scoring Jacob Billings who also singled with two outs to go up 1-0.

Murrieta Mesa’s Carter Garate hits a first inning single in the semifinal game of the CIF Southern Section Division 4 playoffs against Rancho Cucamonga. Valley News/JP Raineri photo

The Cougars then had bases loaded in their half of the third on a single and two walks, but Kelley escaped with a strikeout.

With two outs in the fifth Murrieta Mesa had runners on second and third on a walk and Kelley’s single to left field. Garate flew out to quash the rally. The Cougars added an insurance run in their half of the fifth on Jacob Brown’s solo home run to left field which landed in the parking lot and went up 2-0.

Showing a never say die spirit, the Rams fought with two outs in the seventh to give themselves a chance with the go ahead run at bat. With two outs a walk and hit batsmen brought Derek Hurtado to the plate. He struck out, setting off a celebration on the first base side.

Cougars coach Tony Garcia remarked “We were right in the Baseline League race all the way to the end so I knew we could do good things in division four. Nick Sanchez is one of the top guys in our area that folks don’t know about, and he earned the opportunity to finish this one off. His command was excellent today and just showed a bulldog’s mentality out there. I see a lot of Orel Hershiser in him.”

In defeat Rams coach Mike Wolford said “The kid (Sanchez) was just outstanding today. We hit some balls hard, but he kept us off balance for most of the game. Ultimately our goal was to win a ring and we did not do that. For the juniors hopefully today is motivation and I consider myself honored to have had the opportunity to coach these seniors.”

Derryl Trujillo can be reached by email at socaltrekkie@gmail.com.

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