By Jesse Phelps
As in its first round game, Thacher
set the tone early in its second CIF Southern Section baseball
playoff game against North County Christian with pitching. Charlie
Munzig took the mound for the Toads on Tuesday afternoon and
kept Thacher's playoff drive alive with a one-hit, 9-0 shutout
of the Crusaders.
Less than a week after Graham Douds struck out the first nine
batters to face him, Munzig set down seven of the first nine
Crusader batters by way of the strikeout. In all, he had 10 strikeouts
and kept the ball on the ground most of the time he wasn't sending
the Crusader batters directly back to the dugout.
Unlike the hapless Rio Contiguo squad that committed 15 errors
in Thacher's opening round win, North County Christian had a
solid defense behind pitchers Nick Buckley and Caleb Arseneaux.
Thus, it was up to the Toad batters to find the gaps and rack
up legitimate hits, which they did 12 times on the afternoon.
The Toads wasted no time in getting the hit parade started against
Buckley. Owili Eison walked to lead off the game, one of three
walks he'd have on the day. He stole second and went to third
on a bad throw, setting up catcher Brenton Sullivan for his first
of two RBIs. After Sullivan's run-scoring single, Munzig drove
him home with a single of his own. After Douds singled Munzig
to second, Thacher tried a double delayed steal but Douds was
gunned down at second on a strike-'em-out, throw-'em-out double
That brought up first baseman Richard Smith, who powered a double
way down the left field line to drive in Munzig and propel the
Toads to a 3-0 first inning lead.
After Munzig set down the Crusaders in order in the top half
of the second, Thacher duplicated its first inning run production
with a fierce two-out rally.
Once again, Eison got it started with a base on balls. Once again,
he stole second. Once again, Sullivan singled him home and, once
again, a Munzig hit scored Sullivan, this time a double. Douds
then walked, bringing left fielder Dylan Valadez to the plate.
He knocked home Munzig for the 6-0 lead.
In the first two innings, Thacher's first three batters had all
scored twice. "We're on our game right now," said Munzig.
"We're definitely rippin'
the ball, pitchers are doing our jobs - definitely everyone's
backing us up with good defense - we're just playing smart baseball
and everything's working out."
Munzig struck out the side in the third and from there, the outcome
was a foregone conclusion. Thacher plated another run in the
fifth when shortstop Cameron Robertson reached on an error and
stole two bases including home, when Eison struck out on a ball
in the dirt.
The top of the fifth saw North County Christian's only opportunity
of the day come and quickly go. With one out, first baseman Kyle
Baker finally broke through against Munzig, knocking a clean
single into center. But third baseman Luke Sexton followed that
with what looked to be a sacrifice bunt, moving Baker to second,
but giving up the second out. Munzig then induced center fielder
Derek Trinidade into a pop fly to second to end the threat.
The sixth inning was gravy for the Toads as they batted the subs
and scored two insurance runs on a series of nice at-bats. After
Munzig reached on an error, Cal Jensen batted for Douds and walked.
One batter later, Barrett Brown, hitting for Smith, crammed a
shot deep to left that looked for a moment lie it might leave
the park. It turned into a long RBI single, which was followed
by pinch-hitter Craig Johnson's run scoring single to provide
the final margin.
"It's great to have guys come in off of the bench,"
said Thacher coach Rich Mazzola after the game. "Barrett
almost, you know, put one out of the park. That's great to see.
I've been telling these guys that everyone on the team contributes
to the momentum. And the playoffs is all about momentum."
The final play of the game, a gem turned in by recently returned
center fielder Tyler Caldwell, should give Thacher that momentum
heading into the next round. With a runner on second moving on
contact, Caldwell raced back toward the wall to snatch a deep
drive off the bat of Buckley, turning and throwing a strike to
the second base bag for the double play.
"They've just been waiting for this," Mazzola said.
"Even the guys who weren't hitting today were seeing the
Thacher has won its first two games of this year's CIF Division
VI playoff tournament by a total of 27 runs to zero. The Toads
travel for their first away game of the playoffs today to Riverside,
where they will face Riverside Christian, the No. 3 finisher
from a very tough Metro League. With a win, the Toads will face
either California Lutheran, the Metro League's second place team,
or Lutheran L.A., the fourth-ranked team in the division, on
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
CHARLIE MUNZIG touches first base during the Toads' CIF-SS playoff
game against North County Christian. Thacher bested NCC, 9-0,
and advances to the quarterfinals of Division VI.