By Adam Stites/Garden Grove Journal
A clutch player is defined as someone who is dependable in crucial situations. For the Pacifica Mariners baseball team no situation was more crucial than when Max Bethell stepped in to the batting box and hit a two run home run to take a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning over Cypress on Thursday, May 10. It was a lead that the Mariners were able to hold on to and carry to the first Empire League title for Pacifica since 2009.
Clutch situations are nothing new for the Mariners as they have been able to come up with victories in several close situations, most of the time spearheaded by Bethell. “I don’t come up clutch by thinking about coming up clutch, it’s just at the end of the the game I just react to how the rest of the game plays out,” said Bethell.
The Cal Poly Pomona-bound senior has certainly helped out Pacifica in the past with a walk-off home run against Great Oak as well as a no hitter against Valencia as a pitcher, but no moment was bigger than his home run against Cypress.
Despite having pitched six, scoreless innings, Cypress elected to relieve pitcher Kevin Lillicrop with Isaiah Terrazas with one out in the seventh inning. It was a mistake that proved costly as Bethell, the first batter that Terrazas faced, drove a ball over the fence in left-center field.
“As soon as I hit it I didn’t think it was going out,” Bethell said. “I was just hoping for [Matt] Gilbody to score all the way from first.” But it did go out and the game was over after three more outs from Kyle Davis, who finished the game having allowed just two hits.
“There’s nothing better than dogpiling on your rivals; field,” Bethell said.
For Bethell, the season has been particularly challenging as he has had to persevere through the loss of his father who died of cancer on April 28. “I just remember all the things he used to tell me. He would want me to just keep playing hard. He wouldn’t want [his death] to bring me down, he would want me to play well.”
“How [Bethell]’s been able to play at this level with some of the stuff going on in his life is absolutely remarkable,” said Pacifica Head Coach Mike Caira. “We always talk about once you go between those fences you forget about everything else and you just play baseball, and he’s been able to do that.”
With the victory, the Mariners locked itself into one of the top seeds in the CIF Division II playoffs and an exemption from the wild card round that took place on Tuesday, May 15.
Instead Pacifica’s postseason play will begin today (Thursday, May 17) at Pacifica High School when they play the winner of Tuesday’s wild card game between Ramona and Redondo Union.
“It’s not winning the first five games, it’s about winning the last five and hopefully we’ll be able to do that,” Caira said.