Redondo Union ace Cassius Hamm leads the Sea Hawks into the CIF Southern Section Division 3 playoffs. Photo by Ray Vidal
Redondo Union baseball coach Jeff Baumback knows the importance of a good position going into the CIF playoffs and stressed the fact to his team entering the final week of Bay league competition.
His speech worked as the Sea Hawks swept their two-game series with Peninsula, a team that entered the week ranked No. 3 in Division 3 and was the favorite to win the Bay league title most of the season.
“Leading into the Peninsula series I told the team that it was important that it was critical we do everything we could do to try and take both games,” Baumback said. “I felt like we had done enough up to that point to get us into the playoffs yet grabbing one of the automatic playoff spots by finishing in the top three in our league was crucial because you just never know. I reminded the guys that the previous two seasons we needed to beat Penn in our last game of the season to be Bay League Champions and they beat us.”
After Redondo swept its series with rival Mira Costa, the Sea Hawks defeated visiting Peninsula 3-1 led by Cassius Hamm’s performance on the mound and at the plate. The senior pitcher scattered four hits while going 2 for 2 with 2 RBI.
Redondo carried the momentum into Thursday’s finale at Peninsula and was given a spark by an impressive relief effort by Cooper Gallion who came in with the bases-loaded and one out in the second inning and prevented the Panthers from scoring.
Cole Henderson went 2 for 2 including a two-run double in the fifth inning to give Redondo a 4-1 lead and the Sea Hawks survived a seventh-inning rally for a 4-3 victory.
Duncan McKinnon has been a sparkplug for Redondo this season, turning in sparkling defensive plays and leading the team in scoring. Photo by Ray Vidal
The series sweep dropped Peninsula (21-7, 7-1) into a second-place tie with Redondo (18-12, 7-3) who enters the playoffs as the Bay League’s No. 2 team. Redondo’s two wins also enabled West Torrance (16-3, 8-2) to claim the league championship. The Warriors split their series’ with Redondo and Peninsula.
“Peninsula has had a great season and taking two from them heading into the playoffs and also having won five in a row gives us a lot of confidence,” Baumback said. “I really like this team and I feel like we have the potential to make a deep run. With that being said we can’t look past game #1 and we have to be ready to play a quality team in the first round. The single game elimination format that the CIFSS uses is tough and there is just no room for a mediocre performance. I feel like we are prepared and playing Peninsula this past week was like playing two playoff games, so it was great preparation.”
Senior Cain Castor has provided clutch hits for Redondo throughout the season and junior shortstop/second baseman Duncan McKinnon has been a catalyst for the Sea Hawk offense, leading the team in runs scored while attaining a high on-base percentage.
But Baumback feel any hitter in his lineup could be the hero on any given day.
“Our success will really depend on pitching, so Cassius Hamm getting the ball in our first playoff game will set the tone,” Baumback said. “He is a true competitor and we always have a chance to win when he is on the mound.”
Redondo begins its quest for a CIF title Friday when the Sea Hawks host La Salle. The winner will most likely face No. 2 Bonita in the second round on Tuesday. All games with the exception of the finals are scheduled for 3:15 p.m.
Bay League champion West hosts Hacienda runner-up Diamond Bar in its first-round game while Peninsula travels to face Golden champion Knight.
Palos Verdes (14-13, 5-5) earned at at-large berth and played at Elsinore in a wild-card game on Wednesday. The winner will play at Del Rey champion Bishop Amat on Friday.
Hawthorne (16-8-1) hosted Palmdale in a wild-card game with the winner advancing to play at top-seeded Palm Desert in the first round.
After playing the CIF championship game in 2013, Mira Costa (10-21, 3-7) did not reach the playoffs this year but there was no quit in the young Mustang squad. Trailing 5-0 at Palos Verdes in its final game of the season last Thursday, Mira Costa came back to beat the Sea Kings 6-5 when Dylan Tyrer hit a sacrifice fly to score Reece Alexiades with the winning run. Will Proctor went 2 for 3 with an RBI and picked up the win with a four-inning shutout in relief.
In the Division 4 playoffs, Pioneer co-champion South Torrance (21-8) hosts the winner of the Montclair-El Rancho wild-card game in the first round on Thursday.
Torrance (22-8) shared the Pioneer title with South and hosts St. Bonaventure in its first-round game. El Segundo (16-14) hosted Nordhoff in a wild-card game on Tuesday with the winner traveling to Orange Coast champion Laguna Beach on Thursday.