Laguna’s best season in 73 years concluded last Friday, May 27, in a tough 6-3 loss on the artificial surface at Oaks Christian High School. The windy conditions on an unorthodox converted soccer field were not the ideal setting and senior Chris Paul did not have his usual stuff, perhaps still suffering the effects of a bunt-drill injury received the previous day in practice.
Breakers took an early 1-0 lead on a Paul sacrifice fly that scored Keaton Jones but the Lions came back with two runs in the bottom of the first with plays like a wind-aided bloop hit by Trevor Gretzky that landed just past third base.
Laguna was down 6-1 before a rally in the sixth inning added two runs. Breakers had runners in scoring position with the tying run at the plate with top hitter Paul at-bat, but a pop fly to foul territory ended the effort with the third out.
Breakers out-hit the Lions with 11 hits to their seven. Paul (10-2) gave up four earned runs to balloon his season ERA to 0.99. Bat-wise, Travis Clawson went three for four with Laguna’s only extra-base hit, a lead-off double in the sixth inning. Breakers concluded the year with an Orange County record 89 two-base hits. Larry Stewart came in relief to close the game, highlighted by striking out Gretzky to the delight of the large Laguna contingent that made the trip to Westlake.
Breakers will return a strong core for the 2012 season with five key starting players (season batting average) in Travis Clawson (.411) Larry Stewart (.385), Steve Harrison (.351), Alex Iannotti (.314), and Robbie McInerny (.277).
The pitching staff will be led by Stewart (1.73 ERA in 24 innings) and Jackson Rees (2.69 ERA in 39 innings). Jack Pillsbury saw limited action in 2011 but could be that needed third arm in the rotation. Outfielder Zach Graf (.250) also returns.
Laguna’s talented 21-1 junior varsity squad will provide a number of top players to fill in the vacancies from the departing seniors.
The biggest concern for Laguna in the off-season will be keeping walk-on coach Jeff Sears, now a hot commodity on the Orange County baseball scene. He might be tempted by a Trinity League school, which typically pay richer coaching stipends than paid in Laguna.