Home / News / PHOTOS: Power hitting and solid pitching lift Crean Lutheran into CIF SoCal regional final

PHOTOS: Power hitting and solid pitching lift Crean Lutheran into CIF SoCal regional final

Mar 13, 2023Mar 13, 2023

Mark Fedro of Crean Lutheran belts a home run in the third inning. (Photos courtesy Crean Lutheran Shutterbugs, John Luciano and Howard Lyon).

Like so many times this season, Crean Lutheran High School's baseball team made its home fans happy Thursday afternoon.

The No. 2-seeded Saints powered their way to an 8-1 victory over Sage Creek from Carlsbad in the semifinal round of the CIF SoCal Regional Division IV playoffs to earn a spot in the championship game Friday at 4 p.m. against top-seeded Canyon at Canyon.

The game was moved to Friday with consent of both athletic departments because Crean Lutheran is holding graduation ceremonies Saturday.

Crean Lutheran (26-9) went 5-0 at home during the post-season, including three wins during the CIF Division 4 playoffs.

"The focus of today was we broke our school record for wins, this is the first team ever to win 26 games," said Coach Jake Haney. "At this point of the season, I really feel these guys want to try and make a mark, and we did that by breaking the school record in wins."

The previous record of 25 wins was set in 2014.

To see the slide show, click on the first photo:

Crean Lutheran took command early with two runs in the first inning on an RBI doubles by Adrien Varela and Mark Fedro. Then Fedro and Jack Sand belted back to back home runs in the third inning to give winning pitcher Wyatt Nichol a big cushion.

Nichol pitched 5 2/3 innings allowing a run in the sixth before being relieved by Bryan Fernandez, who got the final four outs of the game.

Nichol, a Pepperdine University commit, allowed five hits, struck out four and walked three in his final high school game playing in front of the home fans.

"Today I just came in and thought, ‘this is it, let's just have some fun, last high school home game,’ and we came out here and we had fun, we were relaxed, we put together some great swings, great defense as well and had some fun today."

The victory sets up a rematch between Crean Lutheran and Canyon, which defeated the Saints 3-0 in the CIF Division 4 finals.

"They’re a really good team and obviously we came up short last time," Nichol said. "I think it's going to be a good game. We’re just out there to have some fun, it's been a successful year and we’re just excited. Some people say the regionals aren't as important as the Southern Section, but I would say this regional was a great opportunity to come out and end things right and have some fun in our last couple games as a high schooler."

Sage Creek (21-13-1) scored its only run in the sixth when Luke Caruso singled, stole second and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch.

Crean Lutheran wound up with nine hits, led by Sand, who also had a two-run triple in the fourth inning and had three RBI on the day. Fedro had three hits, scored two runs and had two RBI, Jack O’Malley and Andrew An had RBI doubles and James Derflinger scored two runs.

"Today was great, we’re playing super good baseball," said Haney. "I guess what's impressive to me is the game is really hard so it's hard to play well for a long time and we’ve played well for weeks and it's a credit to the competitiveness of the group and the pride they have in playing for each other and doing it the right way representing the school and the things we really value and believe in. I think that's why we’ve played so well for so long this year."

Haney was excited to see the power display in the third.

"Two pitches, two bombs, I don't have to call any offense when we hit home runs, that's really easy, just write their names in the lineup," he said.

The coach was also pleased with the toughness Nichol showed.

"Wyatt did a really good job, I probably left him in a couple batters too long, he was tired but he wanted to stay in and try to finish that inning, he's obviously super competitive and he's matured so much this year in terms of his baseball competitiveness being comfortable pitching in big situations, this is all new to him," Haney said.

The Saints celebrated with their usual post-game meeting and team photo.

"That was another huge team win right there," added Fedro, a University of Hawaii-Hilo commit. "Our hitting was on fire, we were ready to hit right when we got into the batter's box. We just came into this game very confident in our pitcher Wyatt and confident in our bats and we all just trusted his pitching and he gave us a lot of ground balls, we made the plays and we got that win."

Fedro said his fourth home run of the year was special.

"Hitting it out of left field here is pretty hard thing to do," he said. "Only two people have done it in history: I was the second one, Jack O’Malley was the first one It felt wonderful, once I heard everyone screaming it felt amazing."

Now the Saints, who opened the regional tournament with a win at home Tuesday, go for the regional title Friday.

"It will be super fun, I’m excited, I know the guys are excited just to play one more game," Haney said. "No matter what, there's no practice Saturday, there's no practice Monday. So our guys are excited to play one more time."

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; [email protected]

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To see the slide show, click on the first photo: who opened the regional tournament with a win at home Tuesday,