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—Benji Medure could barely watch. His Huntington Beach (Calif.) High team had seen its 8-3 lead whittled down to 8-5, and Brooklyn's Poly Prep Country Day squad had the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, potentially just a swing away from winning the opening round matchup at the National High School Invitational.
"I was hiding in the bathroom for most of it," Medure quipped afterward about the tense final frame.
Lefthander Kobie Anton finally put his head coach's mind at ease, coming out of the bullpen and getting the final two outs of the game on a strikeout and a popup, securing the 8-5 win as Huntington Beach advances to the quarterfinals on Thursday.
"There is a level of faith that we have with each other," Medure said. "We've been in the big moment where we've had to shut teams down with the tying runs even at third base, so we believe in our guys and we believe that we're going to get it done."
The first five innings of the game couldn't have gone much smoother for Huntington Beach, a returning team from last year's event, which built a 4-0 lead. The Oilers struggled to generate much offense on their own against Poly Prep ace Nick Storz but were able to maximize whatever chances they did get.
The Oilers took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second without a base hit, drawing a pair of walks and then scoring their runs on two wild pitches. Two innings later, they doubled their lead with the help of three walks and another Storz wild pitch. Dominic Abbadessa moved the rally along with a key single through the left side, which Medure felt was important in injecting some more confidence to the Oilers' hitters, as it was just their second knock of the game.
"We were happy with just two runs, to scratch those off of (Storz)," Medure said. "But when Dom got that base hit and we were able to put four, we had a level of confidence that we were going to get it."
Those four runs looked like they'd be enough for Hagen Danner, the Oilers' two-way star who allowed only one hit and struck out five over the first five innings.
"I just wanted to get ahead of every hitter," Danner said. "I wanted to get the curveball working early so I could get my fastball going, and just paint the black."
Danner ran out of steam in the sixth, when Poly Prep finally broke through for three runs. The Oilers answered with a four-spot in the top of the seventh to seemingly put the game away, only to have to hold on through the tight bottom half, during which Poly Prep drew three walks and ended up with the winning run at the plate.
"We knew game one is the biggest game," Medure said. "It's the only game. We had to come out firing and get the first one. But I think it's more important for the kids that played last year to understand it's a big moment, and they have to really stay calm and not put so much pressure on themselves because of the big stage and just relax and play."