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Esperanza Wins Lions Tourney 2018


Esperanza’s turnaround continues with Lions tournament championship - Article written by Steve Fryer - OC Register


ANAHEIM – It’s too soon to state that Esperanza baseball has returned to elite status.


Certainly, though, the Aztecs are a great deal better than they were last season.


Esperanza won the Anaheim Lions Tournament championship game Wednesday with a 7-3 win over Tustin. It is the first Anaheim Lions Tournament championship for Esperanza.

The Aztecs are 11-2. Last year, they finished 7-21.

Mike Curran retired as Esperanza’s coach after the 2016 season, his 37th season as Aztecs coach. Curran led Esperanza to 13 league championships and seven CIF-Southern Section championship games, with three CIF-SS championship-game wins. Esperanza was a fixture in the Orange County top 10.

Another coaching change after the ’17 season brought in Esperanza alumnus Kyle Muhlsteff, class of 2005, who played for Curran. Muhlsteff not only got his baseball education from Curran but also from a pair of top community college coaches, John Altobelli at Orange Coast and Scott Pickler at Cypress, and played independent-league baseball on a Maui team managed by former MLB star (and Santa Ana Valley alum) Garry Templeton, who managed in the Angels’ minor leagues.

Muhlsteff’s coaching staff includes pitching coach John Verhoeven. Verhoeven, who played four years of Major League Baseball including a couple of seasons with the Angels, and many seasons in the Angels’ minor-league system, was the head coach at Biola University for many years. Capistrano Valley veteran coach Bob Zamora said he has had many Capo pitchers who drove many miles north to get pitching instruction from Verhoeven.

Muhlsteff’s first job was to work on the team’s confidence.

“We had to build up their belief again,” said Muhlsteff, in his first season coaching high school baseball. “And the players had to learn to trust the coaching staff.”

Much of that belief and trust came in the Aztecs’ third game of this season. They trailed Trabuco Hills 3-0 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Esperanza scored four runs for a walk-off 4-3 win.

Esperanza senior third baseman Jason Fox, the tournament MVP who homered and drove in three runs Wednesday, said the Aztecs have an improved attitude this season.

“Our team is a lot more cohesive,” Fox said. “We’re having a lot of fun this year and having a lot of success.”

Esperanza outscored the opposition 44-7 in its five Lions tournament games. Among the wins was a 7-0 victory over Capistrano Valley, which is No. 5 in the Register’s Orange County top 25.

Tustin went 4-1 in the tournament. The Tillers are 9-6. They totaled nine hits in Wednesday’s game, including two hits apiece by Jakob Reed and Matthew Olivares.

The Tillers took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by Reed that drove in Brian Nguyen.

Esperanza scored three times to take a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the second.

Tony Accordino, batting .412 going into the game, led off the inning with a line drive that skipped to the deepest part of the park – right-center field, near the “396” marker that is 40 feet from that deepest spot – for a standup triple. Accordino scored on Noguchi’s sacrifice fly to center. Fox, with CJ Larsen on second base, launched a home run to center field for the 3-1 lead.

Tustin tied it 3-3 in the fourth inning. Reed led off the inning with a single, advanced to second base on Christopher Lopez’ sacrifice bunt and, one out later, scored on Reese Marcosa’s bloop single to left field. Michael Toledo singled to move Marcosa to second base. Matthew Olivares followed with a bloop single that landed near where Marcosa’s bloop single landed to drive in Marcosa for the third run.

The Aztecs tallied three runs in the bottom of the fourth to create a 6-3 lead. Fox’s sharp single through the shortstop-third base hole drove in Noguchi for the first run, Davis Hildebrandt singled to send home Fox, and Wade Meckler’s bad-hop single knocked in Kyle Kirk, who had singled, for the third run.

Larsen’s second hit of the game drove in Noghuchi for the Aztecs’ seventh and final run in the fifth inning.