MONTEBELLO — Judging by its two playoff victories, it would be tough to argue with Coach Larry Patino’s assessment of his Cantwell Sacred Heart of Mary baseball team.
“We’re really firing on all cylinders right now,” said Patino after the Cardinals defeated Garey, 6-0 May 24 in the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs. “We just carried last week’s performance into today’s game.”
Cantwell (26-4 overall) beat Ontario Christian, 4-1 in the first round and the young Cardinals now face their biggest test of the season May 27 when they travel to Lancaster to play second seed Paraclete (22-4) in a quarterfinal matchup. Paraclete, the Gold Coast League champion, has scored playoff victories against Cabrillo, 3-0 and Rubidoux, 13-0.
Though young, the Cardinals appear ready for the challenge from Paraclete. Cantwell’s starting lineup usually consists of three freshmen, three sophomores, two juniors and one senior.
“Most of these kids have played high level, national travel ball all their life, so they compete on every pitch every game,” Patino said. “Most would think that our lack of experience would hurt us, but that hasn’t been the case. We tell them to play loose, do your job, execute and we’ll be fine.”
Zach Thomas pitched a 3-hitter to lead the Cardinals at Garey. The sophomore needed only 60 pitches to raise his record to 8-0. He struck out five and did not walk a batter. Thomas also helped his cause at the plate, stroking two hits, including an RBI single, and scoring two runs.
The victory was Cantwell’s 11th straight, while Garey ended the year 14-10.
“With our pitching and defense, one run feels like three in the playoffs,” Patino said. “As far as depth, our pitching staff is one of the best I’ve seen in high school in a long time.”
The Cardinals have also received stellar work from Andrew Quillen (7-1), Andre Garcia (7-1) and Ordonez (5-0).
Quillen pitched a complete game against Ontario Christian. The senior signed a national letter of intent with Marymount in April.
Cantwell took a 3-0 lead in the third inning against Garey on an RBI double by Chris Ibarra and a two-out, two-run single by Daniel Ordonez. In the fifth, a single by Thomas scored Javy Espinoza after he doubled to lead off the inning to extend the lead to 4-0.
Thomas and Quillen both scored on a passed ball in the seventh.
In their first round win against Ontario Christian, Cantwell’s first six batters reached base as the Cardinals opened the game taking a 4-0 lead. Thomas bunted for a single to get it started and Espinoza tripled to drive him in. Elijah Vazquez was hit by a pitch and Thomas and Quillen delivered RBI singles. Thomas scored on an error.
It was all Quillen would need to get the win. He blanked the Knights (15-14) for six innings before giving up a run in the seventh. He scattered seven hits and at one stretch retired nine of 10 batters.
Jared Thomas and Brandon Rodriguez had two hits each for Cantwell.
“We want our players to be of the mindset that it’s just like golf in the sense that you are playing against the course and not the other players,” Patino said. “We are not playing another team, we are playing against ourselves. If we do our job and execute the small ball, throw strikes and make plays, we’ll go deep into the playoffs.”
In other CIF Southern Section baseball playoff action, six other area teams remain alive and will play in the quarterfinals May 27.
In Division 3, Culver City will play Redondo Union. Culver City has defeated Elsinore, 3-0, and San Luis Obispo, 2-1 in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
In Division 4, Montebello will host El Rancho at 3:15 p.m. May 27. The Oilers defeated Century, 8-1 May 24, after opening the playoffs with a 10-1 win over Calvary Chapel Santa Ana.
El Rancho won a wild card game May 18 and then defeated West Torrance, 4-1 May 20, and Apple Valley, 6-4 May 24, to advance.
Also in Division 4, California High of Whittier will host Laguna Beach May 27. Calhi has defeated Schurr, 5-4, and Fullerton, 4-1, to advance.
A third team from the Del Rio League, Santa Fe, also is in the quarterfinals. The Chiefs face Kaiser May 27 after scoring wins over Grace Brethren, 5-0, and Rialto, 3-0.
Also remaining in the playoffs is Salesian in Division 6. The Mustangs faces Flintridge Prep May 27 after defeating Vasquez, 11-4, and Rancho Christian, 5-3.