Oaks Christian baseball defeats Calabasas for crucial win in tight Marmonte League race

CALABASAS — Oaks Christian baseball coach Royce Clayton was certain that senior infielder Chris Tampoya’s luck would turn.

That his outs had been hard hit balls. That he was facing an inauspicious amount of left-handed pitchers. That his competitive attitude would lead to positive results and it was simply a matter of time.

“It’s been a tough year,” Clayton said about Tampoya. “He may have put a little pressure on himself after he committed to San Diego State. Sometimes as a young person, you think ‘I gotta go out there and hit .500’ No, just do what you do. And I think the game came back to him.”

Tampoya drove in five runs on three hits Friday in a key Marmonte League game against Calabasas. His sixth-inning double reignited Oaks Christian’s offense and his home run in the next frame helped lift the Lions to a 14-7 victory.

The win keeps Oaks Christian (13-11, 8-4) within striking distance of first-place Westlake (10-2 league) going into their three-game league series next week. The series opener is Monday at Westlake.

The middle of the Lions’ order — Tampoya and center fielder Jack Laubacher — combined for eight RBIs Friday to provide run support, which, at first, appeared unnecessary until Calabasas (17-8, 8-4) mounted a comeback.

Oaks Christian starter James Latshaw followed a four-run top of the first with three quick outs before the Lions extended their lead to eight in the second inning.

Latshaw ultimately earned the win, but not without the Coyotes chipping back.

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After trailing 8-0, they worked Latshaw and put themselves in a spot to tie the game in the fifth inning.

It was a slow-burn effort that began in the second inning.

Catcher Will Stubington blasted Latshaw’s pitch over the left field wall, the two-run home run plating Mason Shulman and putting Calabasas on the board. It continued in the third inning with Simon Hoffman bringing in Nathan Castellon on an infield hit.

An interruption to the comeback, however, seemed imminent as Stubington dribbled a ball toward Lions shortstop Elijah Clayton. In an attempt to turn a double play, Clayton flipped the ball to Tampoya with his glove, but it fell short and Hoffman scored.

Latshaw issued subsequent walks to Shulman and A.J. Seidel to start the fifth inning and Stubington, who had two hits and four RBIs, pounced on the opportunity. His double scored Seidel, Brandon Huffman’s sacrifice fly brought Shulman home and, suddenly, the Lions’ lead dwindled to one.

Their resurgence would not have been possible without Luc Olson’s relief performance. Olson inherited a sticky situation when he entered the game in the second inning for starter Ethan Gibbel. That stickiness, then, turned to glue as he conceded three runs before managing an out.

Olson settled in, retiring eight straight Lions through the third, fourth and fifth innings. Twice he got third baseman Quentin Young swinging with off-speed pitches.

“They didn’t make mistakes and he was able to settle in a little bit,” Clayton said about Olson. “We had him on the ropes a couple of times.”

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Olson tossed 87 pitches — his most since he was a freshman — but those ropes finally lost their slack. In the sixth inning, Elijah Clayton hit a triple into center field, driving in Carson Sheffer and, with it, Olson out of the game.

At that point it was 9-7. Tampoya was set to face Brady Leveton. A veteran left-handed batter finally seeing a ripe righty.

“I was looking for a pitch away that I could drive opposite field,” he said.

He did just that.

By the end of the sixth, the Lions led 12-7. Behind Tampoya’s double and singles from Laubacher and Latshaw, they had recaptured their offensive flow.

Relief pitcher Ryan McCracken quieted the Coyotes’ bats with 2 ⅔ scoreless innings and if that ensured the victory — one that gave the Lions a crucial tiebreaker in the tight Marmonte League standings — then Tampoya’s bat flip, celebrating his seventh inning shot, emphasized it.

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