Dons’ torrid hitting too much for Harvard Westlake

Santa Barbara used the long ball to get one step closer to its dream of playing in the CIF final at Dodger Stadium.

The Dons hit three home runs to support the solid pitching of Danny Zandona and defeated Mission League champion Harvard Westlake 7-2 in a CIF Division 2 quarterfinal baseball game before a big crowd at Eddie Mathews Field.

The victory advances Santa Barbara (23-6) to the semifinals at Mission Viejo on Tuesday. The teams met earlier in the season in the Anaheim Lions Tournament and the Dons were beaten 11-6.


Mission Viejo knocked off Damien 12-2 in Friday’s quarterfinals.

The other semifinal matchup is  No. 2 seeded Arcadia vs. Etiwanda.

Tuesday’s winners meet for the Division 2 title on Thursday, June 2 at Dodger Stadium.

“One win from Dodger Stadium. That’s something I’ve always wanted since I knew the finals were played there,” said Zandona.

Not even the team that won arguably the toughest league in Division 2 could cool off Santa Barbara’s torrid hitting in the playoffs. The seven runs give the Dons 27 in three postseason wins.

“They’re a good team,” Santa Barbara coach Fred Warrecker said of Harvard Westlake. “We just got on them and stayed ahead.”

Second baseman Spencer Fraker got the Dons going in the first inning, jumping on a Jack Flaherty fastball and crushing it over the right-center field fence for a 1-0 lead.

“It was a 2-1 pitch and there was nobody on, and I was just looking to be aggressive,” Fraker said. “I just drove it the other way and it carried and got out. It was nice.”

Fraker’s homer came after a game-changing defensive play in the top of the first. Harvard Westlake had runners at first and second when Flaherty ripped a single to center field. Arden Pratt of the Wolverines headed for home, but he was thrown out on a perfectly executed relay play between center fielder Collin Dewell and first baseman Pepe Gil.

Gil took Dewell’s throw near the mound and fired the ball to catcher Colin Eaton, who made a sweeping tag on Pratt to end the inning.

It was a big blow to the Wolverines, who then watched Fraker hit his homer to give Santa Barbara a lead it would never relinquish.

Lucas Benenati, celebrating his 18th birthday, belted the second homer over the left-field fence with two outs in the second inning for a 2-0 advantage.

Harvard Westlake (23-8) manufactured a run in the third after Zandona hit Sam Horn with a pitch. Horn went to third on a single by Flaherty and scored on a ground-ball out to second base by Jason Garfinkel.

Santa Barbara’s bats didn’t let up against the freshman Flaherty. In the bottom of the third, Cam Gniadek singled to left, was sacrificed to second by Fraker and scored on slngle to right by Collin Dewell.

Zandona joined in the attack with a lead-off solo homer to left in the fourth inning to give himself 4-1 lead.

Flaherty got the next two outs before Kenny Crawford doubled to left to chase him. Crawford  scored the fifth run on a triple to right by  Gniadek off Harvard Westlake reliever Connor Dillman.

Gniadek went 3-for-4 with a RBI and two runs scored.

Santa Barbara tacked on two more runs in the sixth on a lined single to right center by Fraker, who had three RBIs on the day.

Harvard Westlake scored its second run in the seventh after a couple of Santa Barbara errors and a ground out to second.

Zandona was superb once again. The unflappable senior right-hander pitched out jams in the first three innings and then was nearly unhittable from the fourth inning on. He allowed only one hit in the last four innings.

He gave up a total of six singles, walked one and struck out nine to improve his record to 10-1.

It was a feel-good performance for Santa Barbara seniors, who were playing their final game at Eddie Mathews Field.

Now they’d like to finish their high school careers with a trip to Dodger Stadium.

Harvard Westlake…001 000 1 — 2 6 0

Santa Barbara…111 202 x — 7 9 2

Flaherty, Dillman (4) and Pabst;  Zandona and Eaton. W—Zandona (10-1). L—Flaherty (6-1).

2B—SB: Crawford. 3B—SB: Gniadek. HR—Fraker (4), 1st inn. none on. Benenati (4), 2nd inn. none on. Zandona (2) 4th inn. none on.