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RIVERSIDE — The drought is officially over.

For the first time in 60 years, Santa Maria High School is home to a baseball champion.

Trevor Garcia pitched a complete game shutout, Bobby Ruiz sparked the Santa Maria offense in the fourth inning and Santa Maria cruised to a 9-0 win over Moreno Valley in the championship game of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs.

The game was played at UC Riverside, a 10-minute drive for the Vikings, but one of more than three hours for Santa Maria.

The long trip didn't faze the Saints, nor did it bother the large Santa Maria contingent that made the journey to Southern California. The tight game early on didn't faze Garcia either, as neither team scored through three-and-a-half innings. 

Garcia was lights out, allowing just four hits and striking out seven while walking one. 

"I can't let anything affect me out there and if I do I just have to let it go," Garcia said. "I've never really reacted much. I've always been kind of a calm guy and easygoing."

Garcia said he was focused on first-pitch strikes and getting outs with his breaking pitch.

"I was just getting ahead with the first-pitch fastball and then getting them off-balance," the junior said.

Then the Saint offense found its groove against starter Pedro Chayeb in the bottom of the fourth.

Slim Lopez started the inning with a leadoff single. Garcia drew a walk and both runners advanced on a wild pitch with Marc Estrada at the plate.

Estrada walked, bringing up Ruiz with the bases loaded and nobody out. Ruiz, the No. 8 hitter, laced a two-run single, giving Santa Maria a lead. 

Boogie Rodriguez, Santa Maria's No. 9 hitter, followed that up with a run-scoring single, putting the Saints up 3-0.

Isiah Garcia, Santa Maria's leadoff man, gave the Saints a 5-0 lead with a scorching two-run double to deep center. Garcia then scored on a ground ball by senior right-fielder Angel Esparza to make it 6-0. 

Trevor Garcia and the Saints cruised from there, as the junior right-hander allowed just two hits through five innings on 54 pitches. 

Rodriguez singled again to start the sixth for the Saints and scored on a balk by Moreno Valley reliever David DeJesus. The Saints went ahead 8-0 on a triple from Angel Esparza, who came around to score on Lopez's single for the game's final run.

The Vikings got a pair of singles off Garcia in the top of the seventh, but Marc Estrada fielded a soft grounder at third, turned around and tagged out the baserunner for the game's final out.

The Saints rushed the mound, piling on top of Garcia, celebrating the school's first CIF championship in baseball since 1957. The Saints did it in dominant fashion, outscoring their six opponents 66-12. 

Tommy Herrera, the Saints' sophomore catcher, produced throughout the postseason and didn't stop on Saturday. He went 3-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Lopez finished up 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Rodriguez, a senior first baseman, finished up 2-for-2 with a pair of runs and an RBI. 

Santa Maria's pitching was also dominant throughout the postseason, with Garcia and Paul Navarro locking down opposing offenses in the six playoff victories. Navarro went 1-for-4 on Saturday, playing through a split fingernail on his throwing hand that he suffered taking infield before the game, which was played in 90-degree temperatures. 

This year's team is a homegrown version of the Saints, with many players growing up around the program and struggling through years without a playoff appearance. The Saints ended a 12-year playoff drought in 2016.

They're now CIF champions. Lopez's mom and dad both went to Santa Maria High. His dad Adam coached at the school and his brother Alex is a coach on the team now.

"It feels amazing, it seriously gives me chills just thinking about" the CIF championship, Lopez said. "I just hope that we can keep it rolling next year."

Lopez and Trevor Garcia have been playing ball together for most their lives, growing into All-Stars at Southside Little League.

"I love watching my brother pitch, it's just so amazing," Lopez said of Garcia. "It's just what we've been doing since we were little."

The Saints have eight players who are juniors or younger on the team and will once again be in Division 6 in 2018. Opening up the possibility of a repeat.

The Saints lose Esparza, Navarro, Alfredo Camacho, JJ Pantoja and Rodriguez to graduation. Esparza and the other four seniors won't have the opportunity to repeat after putting in four years of work to get to this title.

"We've waited for this for four years, you know?" Esparza said. "I barely got to play my freshman year, since then I've been wanting to make it to at least the playoffs and maybe even farther if we could. And now it's finally here."

The most recent CIF championship for Santa Maria High was the soccer team's win in 2005.


Sports Editor

Alumni Fresno State