GLENDALE — Behind a two-hit effort from starting pitcher Daniel Enzminger, a much-needed save from closer Brendan McKiernan and just enough timely hitting, the Flintridge Prep baseball team is advancing to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division VI playoffs for a second consecutive year.
The Prep League runner-up Rebels punched their ticket to Tuesday’s second round after a 4-0 victory over visiting New Community Jewish of West Hills in Thursday’s opening round at the Glendale Sports Complex.
Flintridge Prep (15-7-1), which hadn’t won a postseason contest in 14 years prior to last season, will take on Frontier League champion Malibu (16-12), which defeated California Lutheran, 17-1, on Thursday, at a place to be determined by a coin flip Friday morning at the CIF Southern Section office.
“We’re playing some of our best baseball at the right time, which is great,” said Flintridge Prep second-year skipper Guillermo Gonzalez, who improved his postseason record to 4-1. “If you look at our defense, we didn’t make any errors today. Our pitching was strong, like it always is, and we got some offense.”
Rebels starting pitcher Enzminger was in command for most of Thursday’s game, as the senior was working on a two-hitter and opened the top of the seventh by recording an infield out.
The out was the last for Enzminger, however, who appeared fatigued and walked New Community’s next three batters.
Suddenly the Jaguars had life with the tying run at the plate, which led Gonzalez to pull his starter in favor of ace McKiernan.
“I was almost out of gas and was running on pure adrenaline,” Enzminger said. “I had total confidence in Brendan and knew he would finish off the game.”
McKiernan delivered the Rebels into the second round and secured the shutout with a three-pitch strikeout followed by an infield grounder that quashed the Jaguars’ last chance.
“I know Daniel wanted to stay in there,” Gonzalez said. “but we had to make the best move for the team.”
McKiernan’s save capped a strong effort from Enzminger, who allowed only two hits, six walks and struck out five in 6 1/3 innings of work.
Prior to the seventh inning, New Community only placed a runner in scoring position when the Jaguars had runners on first and second with two outs in the third. Enzminger coaxed a harmless pop-up to the mound to end the threat.
On top of Enzminger’s effort, the senior was backed up by a solid defensive outing that included an over-the-shoulder catch from second baseman Michael Weinstein in the second that led to a double play and a critical throw-out from catcher Cole Pilar in the third.
As for Pilar, the sophomore delivered the game’s big blow when he lofted an 0-2 fastball on the edge of the plate from New Community starting pitcher Zachary Miller (four runs on four hits in four innings) into left field just fair that turned into a bases-loaded two-out, two-run double that plated teammates Robbie Leslie (single) and Isaac Kim (walk) and put Flintridge Prep ahead, 4-0.
“In that situation, with a 0-2 count, you don’t go anywhere near the plate,” lamented Jaguars Coach Rocco Barile. “It was a mistake, but I will saying pitching didn’t cost us this game. You’re not going to win games if you can’t score.”
The Rebels scored three runs in the fourth overall, with the first tally coming across on a wild pitch that allowed Scott Tsangeos to cross home plate.
Flintridge Prep’s other run came in the first when Weinstein dunked a ball into left with two outs for a run-scoring single that brought home Hamilton Evans.
“We just love being in the playoffs,” Pilar said. “It brings out the best in us.”
Follow Andrew J. Campa on Twitter: @campadresports.