Christian High baseball Division III champions

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Christian High School’s bright red jerseys flooded Fowler Park and Cunningham Field, standing out against the blue backdrop of the University of San Diego’s fences last Friday. Each player’s uniform seemed to flow into the next as they formed a dogpile along the first base line after a walk-off sac fly completed their come-from-behind win against third-seeded Del Norte, 5-4, to claim the CIF San Diego Section Division III baseball championship.

Junior centerfielder Kyle Stowers said his teammates had been talking about such a finish earlier in the week.

Christian High School’s bright red jerseys flooded Fowler Park and Cunningham Field, standing out against the blue backdrop of the University of San Diego’s fences last Friday. Each player’s uniform seemed to flow into the next as they formed a dogpile along the first base line after a walk-off sac fly completed their come-from-behind win against third-seeded Del Norte, 5-4, to claim the CIF San Diego Section Division III baseball championship.

Junior centerfielder Kyle Stowers said his teammates had been talking about such a finish earlier in the week.

“We were joking around in the beginning of the week, like ‘what if we win on a walk off?” he said. “I was just like, ‘No, no, no. I don’t want that to happen, I want it to be a lot less stressful.’ But it happened. I was just the guy in the spot and everything worked out well.”

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the sun snuck behind what seemed to be the only cloud in the sky when Stowers stepped into the box in a tie game with the bases loaded and none out. Senior shortstop Trevor Howell, who led the Patriots with 33 steals in 31 games, was standing on third base. With all his might, Stowers swung through a low change-up from Nighthawk lefty Grant Hylton on the first pitch to fall behind, 0-1. He then took the next two pitches to work the count back to 2-1.

Hylton fired a high fastball on the next pitch as the sun came back out. Stowers’s swing was underneath the pitch but caught just enough of the ball to send it to left field. Del Norte left fielder Marco Young settled under the ball, but his throw sailed wide as Howell slid headfirst into home plate for the winning run.

Howell had already scored two runs in the game and said he was confident Stowers would knock him in a third time.

“All year long he’s been like, ‘If you get on third, I’ll hit a sac fly,” he said. “It’s his favorite, favorite place to be in the game. After he swung at that change-up pretty big, I knew he’d settle in and hit a fly ball.”

Christian held a 3-1 lead entering the top of the seventh inning. Senior pitcher Bryce Jurries had only given up one run on three hits in the first six innings, but a string of Nighthawk singles resulted in two runs to tie the game, 3-3. With two outs, junior Nathan Jarvis was brought on to relieve him and allowed another RBI single, though the run was credited to Jurries, before striking out Nighthawk senior Adam Connors to end the inning with a one-run deficit.

Jurries said he was disappointed that he struggled in his final high school inning.

“As a senior, it’s kind of heartbreaking because it’s the very end,” he said. “You wish you could finish it yourself.”

Head coach Michael Mitchell said Jurries had earned the right to pitch the seventh inning.

“It’s high school baseball, man,” he said. “Well, baseball period. You never know. The ball’s hit a quarter of an inch up the bat and it’s a pop-up, we catch it and it’s no big deal. I would probably do the same thing again. He’d gone that far, he was a senior. It was his game to win or lose, so that’s why we stuck with him.”

Hitting at the bottom of the order, junior designated hitter Nate Cazares led off the bottom of the seventh with a bang. After taking the first pitch, he turned on a fastball and launched it over the right field fence to tie the game, 4-4.

“I was in disbelief,” he said. “It was my first home run of the season and I couldn’t have picked a better time to hit it. I was praying before my at-bat and I got the ultimate piece. I just swung the bat and it went far.”

Mitchell said Cazares will remember the moment for years to come.

“That’s a lifetime memory for the kid,” he said. “He’s only a junior, hopefully that will springboard into a great season for him next year. Maybe he can earn a scholarship somewhere because he can hit a little bit.”

Christian finished the 2015 season with an astonishing 29-2 record. Mitchell said he was proud of the Patriots and commended the Nighthawks for their performance.

“That’s the mark of a champion, kids that don’t quit,” he said. “You’ve got to take your hat off to Del Norte because they wanted to be champions and they didn’t quit. It felt like 16 or 17 straight hits in the seventh inning for them to take the lead. Luckily, once we got out of it, we got our chance.”