Walker, now 8-0, was more than effective against Gahr, the second-place team from the San Gabriel Valley League. He threw into the sixth inning before Seahawks Coach Shane Borowski pulled and replaced him with reliever Freddy Sepulveda.
The move came after Gahr’s Michael Lugo tagged Walker for a two-run home run to draw the Gladiators to within 5-3 with one out in the sixth.
Sepulveda then did what he does best — shut down the opponent. He struck out two of the first three batters he faced to get out of the inning. He went on to post another save.
Walker exited with a three-hitter. He struck out three, walked one and hit a batter.
“We planned to remove Blake before the (sixth) inning but when we got a few insurance runs in the fifth, we decided to keep him in there,” Borowski said. “I thought Blake did a great job. He gave up that homer but he had done a great job in keeping them (Gahr) down for most of the game.
“And Freddy, well, he was unbelievable. He was his usual self and shut them down the rest of the game.”
The win sends Ocean View (21-9) to Saturday’s Division III final in Lake Elsinore (Storm Field) where the Seahawks will meet La Verne Bonita (24-4-1), a 13-4 winner over San Gorgonio.
“This is unbelievable,” Borowski said of Ocean View’s first trip to a division final since 2005.
The program has won a section title in its only two other finals appearances. In addition to winning the 2005 championship, the school won its first baseball title in 1998.
“This is a group of players who really play as one,” he continued. “They love playing together. It’s a group of kids who are have taken on roles that they aren’t accustomed to.
“For instance, Blake Walker has been our main starter this year because Freddy (Sepulveda) was injured early in the year and only returned to our lineup about seven weeks ago. Blake, normally, is a middle infielder. Another is Colton Johnson who has also pitched for us and has gotten us through some tough times and helped us win a (league) championship. Then there’s sophomore Timmy Robinson who has never caught before, yet he’s done a tremendous job for us behind the plate. Really, this is a very special team.”
Ocean View never trailed Tuesday, thanks to Nick Schulenburg, a three-year varsity player who hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the second inning.
Schulenburg, a senior known affectionately by his teammates as, “The Mule,” drove a 1-0 pitch deep beyond the fence in left field, at about the 330 mark. His blast, which came with two out, brought in Kevin Nance who opened the Ocean View second with a double.
Nance’s two-bagger was Ocean View’s first hit of the game.
“After that first pitch, I was seeing it,” Schulenburg said of the inside fastball that he took for his fifth home run of the year. “It felt good when I hit it.”
Gahr responded with a run in the top of the third on an RBI single by Alex Hernandez to pull to within 3-1 but the Gladiators (20-11) could get no closer. That’s because Ocean View pulled away two innings later, getting three runs in the bottom of the fifth to expand its lead to 5-1.
In the fifth, Johnson started the inning with a single and later scored on Walker’s infield grounder to make it 3-1. Blake Hitchcock drove in the final two runs of the frame when his one bounce, high-hop grounder launched over the head of Gahr third baseman Marcus Tomlin and into shallow left-field. Hitchcock’s hit brought in Walker and pinch runner Andrew Medrano.
After Lugo’s two-run homer in the top of the sixth, Ocean View got those two runs back in the bottom of the inning when Aaron Delagdo’s single straight up the middle scored Johnson from second and Nance’s second double of the game scored Delgado.
The Seahawks took a 7-3 lead into the seventh.
There, Sepulveda sent the Gladiators down in order and wrapped up the game by getting lead-off hitter Daniel Lack to strike out.
“It’s an exciting time for Ocean View baseball,” Borowski said. “We are really excited to be playing for a CIF championship Saturday.”
Borowski said he wasn’t sure who would get the start on the mound Saturday.
He’ll have his choice.
“We’ll probably draw for a hat for that,” he joked.