Smith, No. 1 Prune Packers Walk-Off No. 5 Conejo Oaks In Extras To Reach Semi-Finals

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Updated: August 5, 2021

LINCOLN, CA – Down 7-6 in the 10th inning with a runner on second with two outs, the No. 1 Healdsburg Prune Packers’ last hopes clung on pinch hitter Hance Smith (Cal Berkeley). Facing elimination in the 2021 CCL State Championship playoffs, Smith squared on a fastball and launched it well over the left field wall to walk-off the No. 5 Conejo Oaks and advance the Packers to the semi-finals.

“[Healdsburg Coach/GM Joey Gomes] really preaches keeping everything very simple, and so going up I kept my heart rate down and was just looking for a pitch to hit and be on time, and I got one, and there it was,” Smith said.

Before the back-and-forth action heated up, the starting pitchers were on their game early. Both Healdsburg’s Marvcus Guarin (Pacific) and Conejo’s Chris Torres (Glendale CC) had identical stat lines through two innings: one hit allowed and one strikeout in seven batters faced.

The third inning is where the Packers struck first; Cole Elvis (Cal Berkeley) and Ian McMillan (Houston) were walked to open the inning. Three consecutive hits from Austin Bost (Texas A&M), Ryan Targac (Texas A&M) and Cam Blake (Texas Rio Grande Valley) put up four runs.

A Blake-to-Blake connection scored the fifth run, when Blake Burke (Tennessee) hit a grounder that allowed Cam Blake to take home.

Conejo gained momentum in the top of the fifth. Austin Carillo (Cal Lutheran) advanced Kaden Tsuji (Austin Peay State) and JT Navyac (Cal State Fullerton) to put them in scoring position after their back-to-back singles. Brendan Bobo (Cal State Fullerton) then took advantage and smacked a single to score both runners and cut the deficit to three.

Conejo’s Lucien Wechsberg (Oxnard) and Healdsburg’ Henrik Reinertsen (Cal Berkeley) pitched 1-2-3 innings in the bottom of the fifth and top of the sixth, respectively, and Wechsberg stranded two runners in scoring position in the sixth to keep the Oaks within reach.

Carrillo hit an RBI single in the seventh, but Bost came right back with a solo shot to left in the bottom of the frame to make it 6-3.

The Oaks were not going down without a fight. Grant Smith (Incarnate Word) led off the eighth with a single to center, and Brendan Durfee (Cal Lutheran) advanced to second on a throw after a single of his own. With runners on second and third, Raul Sandoval (Cal Davis) scored one with a single, and sacrifice fly from Greg Mehlhaff (Pepperdine) in the next at bat scored the other.

The Packers got out of the inning without giving up the lead, but the 6-5 score line made things more intense.

The Packers threatened to swing momentum back in their favor in the bottom of the frame, loading the bases, but Conejo prevented them from extending their one-run lead. With Conejo escaping a dagger, they shoved one into the Prune Packers. Navyac led off the ninth with a missile home run to left field, tying the game 6-6.

Carrillo was walked in the next at bat, stole second, then advanced to third on an errant throw, putting the go-ahead run on third with just one out. A pop out gave the Oaks one more chance to get ahead, but Spencer Hynes (Wichita State) took the mound for Healdsburg and got the last out.

“We have a lot of confidence in all our pitchers,” Smith said. “We knew if they kept us close, we were always gonna have a chance with our bats. We just were staying in it and ready to take it.”

Jesse Lopez (Long Beach State) came in to pinch hit as the leadoff hitter in the ninth, and forced a walk. Kimble Schuessler (Texas A&M) subbed in to pinch run, and Targac laid down a bunt in the next at bat to advance him to second.

Blake sent a liner to Oaks’ right fielder TJ Foreman (Austin Peay State), but a miscommunication between Schuessler and the Packers’ third base coach led the Packers vulnerable to a double-play, forcing the game to extra innings.

The CCL State Championship rules start extra innings with a runner on second with one out. Sandoval singled to score the runner and put the Oaks up 7-6 heading into the bottom of the 10th, where Smith etched his name in CCL State Championship lore.

The Packers move on to face the loser of tonight’s No. 2 Arroyo Seco Saints vs. No. 4 San Luis Obispo Blues tomorrow at 12pm PST.

“We’re just gonna stick to our plan. We’re deep with our pitching staff and the bats are gonna come out and I don’t think anybody’s stressing,” Smith said. “I think we’re just gonna stick to the plan and go.”

Player of the Game: PH Hance Smith (Cal Berkeley)

1-1, HR, 2 RBI, R

Contributors:

  • Joe Pohoryles, CCL Reporter
  • Angela Martinez, CCL Photographer
  • Brandon Lin, CCL Videographer