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South Hills pulls away from Calabasas late to reach Division 2 championship game

WEST COVINA — With visiting Calabasas threatening a late-inning comeback, South Hills left-fielder Dom Prieto came away with the play of the season, and it ignited the Huskies to a 5-1 victory in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 semifinals on Tuesday.

Joseph Moreno #22 of South Hills celebrates with teammates after defeating Calabasas 5-1 to win the Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Luke Bauer #11 of South Hills celebrates with teammate Marcos Rosales #13 of South Hills after scoring against Calabasas in the second inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

South Hills celebrates after defeating Calabasas 5-1 to win the Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

South Hills celebrates after defeating Calabasas 5-1 to win the Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Matthew Witkow #4 of Calabasas reacts after being picked off first base picked off first base by Joseph Moreno (not pictured) of South Hills in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

South Hills celebrates after defeating Calabasas 5-1 to win the Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Matthew Witkow #4 of Calabasas is picked off first base as first baseman Steven Jimenez #24 of South Hills makes the tag in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Starting pitcher Peter Lynch #9 of Calabasas throws to the plate against South Hills in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

South Hills celebrates after defeating Calabasas 5-1 to win the Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Noah Malone #2 of South Hills celebrates after defeating Calabasas 5-1 to win the Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Phoenix Call #22 of Calabasas hangs on the fence after South Hills defeated Calabasas 5-1 to win the Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Starting pitcher Peter Lynch #9 of Calabasas throws to the plate against South Hills in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Shortstop Marcos Rosales #13 of South Hills throws late as Matthew Witkow (not pictured) of Calabasas is safe at first base in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Right fielder Luke Bauer #11 of South Hills makes the catch on a fly ball by Sean Sims (not pictured) of Calabasas in the second inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Noah Malone #2 of South Hills scores against Calabasas in the second inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Shortstop Marcos Rosales #13 of South Hills dives for a ground ball by Matthew Witkow (not pictured) of Calabasas in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Matt Moreno #1 of South Hills scores on a single by teammate Paul Vazquez (not pictured) of South Hills against Calabasas in the sixth inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Noah Malone #2 of South Hills high fives teammates after scoring against Calabasas in the second inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Second baseman Tyler Shulman #12 of Calabasas tags out Paul Vazquez #3 of South Hills on a attempted steal of second base in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Starting pitcher Joseph Moreno #22 of South Hills throws to the plate against Calabasas in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Third baseman Paul Vazquez #3 of South Hills throws out Nate Castellon #8 of Calabasas at first base in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Matthew Witkow #4 of Calabasas reacts after being picked off first base as first baseman Steven Jimenez #24 of South Hills looks away in the first inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Marcos Rosales #13 of South Hills high fives teammates after scoring on a single by teammate Noah Malone (not pictured) of South Hills against Calabasas in the sixth inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Starting pitcher Joseph Moreno #22 of South Hills makes the catch on a bunt pop up by Sean Sims (not pictured) of Calabasas in the fifth inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Third baseman Chris Cotton #13 of Calabasas throws out Marcos Rosales #13 of South Hills in the third inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Third baseman Chris Cotton #13 of Calabasas throws out Marcos Rosales (not pictured) of South Hills in the third inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Matt Moreno #1 of South Hills scores on a single by teammate Paul Vazquez (not pictured) of South Hills against Calabasas in the sixth inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Second baseman Matt Moreno #1 of South Hills throws out Nate Castellon (not pictured) of Calabasas in the third inning of a Division 2 semifinal playoff baseball game at South Hills High School in West Covina on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. South Hills won 5-1. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

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South Hills lefty sophomore Joseph Moreno was sailing along with a 2-0 lead, allowing one hit through five innings when he gave up back-to-back walks in the sixth inning, prompting Huskies coach Darren Murphy to bring in senior Matt Moreno.

After the Coyotes’ runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch, the Huskies’ lead was suddenly cut in half after the Coyotes’ Simon Hoffman scored on a ground out to make it 2-1.

After another walk and stolen base, the Coyotes suddenly had runners on second and third with one out, threatening to tie the game or take the lead.

That’s when the moment came.

Calabasas’ Tyler Shulman flew out to Prieto in left with the Coyotes’ Desi Gonzalez tagging and trying to tie the score. But Prieto threw a perfect strike home to freshman catcher Aiden Soto to get Gonzalez, preserving the Huskies’ one-run lead and sending them into a wild celebration.

“That was a big turning point,” Prieto said. “If I don’t make that play who knows, we might not be in the championship right now, we could still be playing.”

The Huskies used that momentum to score three runs in the seventh to close it out.

No. 2 South Hills (24-6) will take on Crespi, a 5-3 winner over top-seed Aquinas, in the championship game on either Friday or Saturday at Blair Field in Long Beach when it chases its seventh title.

Calabasas (22-10) coach Thomas Cassidy agreed that the inning-ending double play was the momentum changer in the sixth, especially with the Coyotes only managing two hits in the loss.

“Absolutely, that was our shot, we had our rally going,” Cassidy said. “Our guy was running hard home and their guy made an unbelievable throw, you got to tip your cap to them. We made a couple mistakes today, but hats off to them, they beat us, they were better and they deserved it.”

What made the play so special to Murphy was not just the throw, but the tag by his freshman catcher Soto, who started because senior leader Malaki Pelayo was unable to go because of a shoulder injury.

“That was singlehandedly the biggest play of the game,” Murphy said. “The momentum completely sways their way if they tie the game and then they would have had a runner in scoring position too.

“You know, Dom to Soto, I did not see it a week ago. Soto is not our starting catcher and he’s a freshman and caught a one-run game in a CIF semifinal. He’s really cool and calm and I’m really proud of him for stepping up for Malakai and taking his place for a game.”

South Hills’ Noah Malone led off the second inning with an infield single, and later scored on a throwing error.

The Huskies weren’t finished, Luke Bauer’s fly-out to left scored Steven Jimenez to go up, 2-0.

Leading 2-1, Paul Vazquez singled home Matt Moreno and Malone singled home two more to take a four-run lead in the seventh inning.

For Joseph Moreno, it has been some playoff run. He had lost his starting spot before the playoffs, but pitched five no-hit innings of relief in the second round, pitched a 1-2-3 seventh inning in the quarterfinals, and got the start on Friday and allowed one hit in five innings,

In 10 1/3 innings in the playoffs, Moreno has allowed just two hits.

“On a team of stars and MVPs, he has been as much of an MVP in the playoffs as anyone,” Murphy said of Joseph Moreno.

You could tell, Joseph Moreno’s confidence is sky high.

“I always tell myself, it only matters in the playoffs,” Joseph Moreno said. “I just had to do my job.”

South Hills coach Darren Murphy and sophomore lefty Joseph Moreno talk about their 5-1 win over Calabasas and trip to the CIF-SS Division 2 finals. pic.twitter.com/6UqGZ5U1ZX

— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) May 17, 2023

South Hills left fielder Dom Prieto talks about his game altering throw out at home in the sixth inning that ignited the Huskies in a 5-1 semifinal win over Calabasas pic.twitter.com/zgsy8Ie4k5

— Fred J. Robledo (@SGVNSports) May 17, 2023

 

 

 

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