BB: Chargers wrap up 2nd straight Channel League title

Dos Pueblos made school history at a place where they haven’t had much success.

The Chargers won back-to-back Channel League baseball championships for the first time by beating Santa Barbara, 8-2, on Tuesday at Eddie Mathews Field.

They hold a two-game lead over the Dons going into Thursday’s regular-season finale at DP’s Scott O’Leary Field.

“It’s quite an honor,” first-year DP coach Nick Katzenstein said of being the first DP baseball to repeat as champions. “A lot of credit goes out to coach (Nate) Mendoza for getting these guys to where they are.”

Mendoza coached the baseball team for three years (winning the league title last year) before stepping down to take over the football program at DP.

“I just inherited a lot of great baseball players and they kept believing in themselves throughout the whole season,” Katzenstein said. “We’re excited about it but we’re not done. We still have some more goals and we’re going to continue to play as hard as we can and hopefully do well come playoff time.”

Dos Pueblos (19-8, 10-1) rode the pitching of senior left-hander Gabe Speier and backed him up with a 13-hit attack. James Savage, who got the Chargers offense going with a leadoff double in the second inning and scored the first run, went 3-for-3 with a RBI. Nolan Soto and Anthony Spiritosanto each had two hits and two RBIs, and Luke Coffey drove in a pair of runs.

Speier, a UCSB commit, had a one-hit shutout through five innings before the Dons strung together three hits and a flyout to score their two runs in the sixth. He struck out seven, walked two and hit a batter in six innings of work. Soto gave up a pair of hits in the seventh before ending the game on a ground ball that shortstop Ben York turned into a double play.

Katzenstein said it was reassuring for his team to have a veteran like Speier on the mound in a big game.

“Having Gabe on the bump for us today was big,” he said. “We didn’t want the ball to be in anybody else’s hands but a senior like that. He pitched exceptionally well today.”

Speier relished the prospect of wrapping up the title at Santa Barbara

“What better way to end it than playing our rivals and beating them on their turf,” he said. “I thought we played, very, very, very well today — the best baseball we played all year.

“We had that mindset we’re going to win today and we came out and did our thing,” he added. “We hit the ball well and had very good defense. It’s always easier to pitch with defense behind me. We did our job.”

Santa Barbara starter Jeff Paschke struggled with his control from the start but was able to come up with the big pitches to keep the game close through the first four innings. DP took a 1-0 lead on Savage’s double, a sacrifice by Spiritosanto and a single by Coffey in the second.

“We did not play very well as a team,” Santa Barbara coach Fred Warrecker said. “We were just staggering around, the pitch counts were high. We were lucky the score was 1-0. The score could have been 3 or 4 to nothing at that point.”

The Chargers broke the game open in the fifth. The inning started when Dustin Demeter reached base on a third-strike wild pitch. Pinch runner Tucker Snider went to second on a bad pick-off throw and reached third on another wild third strike that got away from catcher Skyler Sabado. Soto followed with a RBI single against a drawn-in infield to make it 2-0.

Evan Smith was brought in to pitch for the Dons and he gave up consecutive singles to Dylan Rohde, Savage and Spiritosanto, as the Chargers tacked on three more runs to lead 5-0.

They added three more runs on five hits in the sixth.

“I just didn’t think we reacted very well today,” Warrecker said. “In big-game pressure, I thought DP showed a lot more poise than we did as a group.”

The Dons are 16-7 and 8-3 in Channel League.

DP senior shortstop Ben York said winning the title at Santa Barbara was fitting for him because it’s where he played his first varsity game as a freshman.

“We had a chance to do something that’s never been done in school history, win back-to-back league titles. The fact we can come out and do it today is awesome,” he said. “You couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to experience this with. We’re all brothers. We were talking to each in a group text message last night, pumping each other up and getting going. I think that’s awesome that we have such good camaraderie.”