VENICE — With two outs in the bottom of the seventh and down a run, Pacifica Christian’s Head Coach Julian Chavez was still optimistic his team could pull out a victory.
“I knew that if Athen [Shelp] got on, we’d win the ball game,” Chavez said of the pressure-packed situation.
Apparently, Chavez was onto something as Shelp was hit by a pitch, extending the Seawolves’ season. A pair of batters later it would be Athen’s younger brother, freshman Tucie Shelp, who would stroke a single to left field with the bases loaded scoring a pair of runs to win the CIF-Southern Section Division 7 semifinal, 11-10, over Firebaugh on Tuesday at North Venice Little League.
The win propels Pacifica Christian to the final on Saturday at UC Riverside. The Seawolves’ opponent will be the winner of the Animo Leadership and Dunn game also played on Tuesday. The score of that game was not available at presstime.
“It was one of the best games I’ve ever been associated with,” Chavez said.
The appearance in the final is just the latest in a string of accomplishments for the team, playing its third season of organized baseball — all under Chavez.
In the team’s first season, they made a surprise run to the second round of the playoffs before elimination. Last year, the Seawolves reached the semifinals where they lost to eventual champ Cornerstone. This year may have taken the team to new heights, but Chavez is careful to remind his guys to not let the win get to their heads. Yet, he’s careful to acknowledge what a sweet run it’s been.
“The guys have grown up,” Chavez said of his core group of juniors who have been together since the inaugural season. “They have improved since they were freshman.”
Fittingly, it was junior Kevin Hammer who scored the winning run. This year’s co-most valuable player of the Heritage League has been a key on each of the Seawolves’ playoff teams.
The victory avenges an earlier loss to Firebaugh, a game that Chavez said played a part in motivating the Seawolves for the rematch.
“[Firebaugh is] a good team, they kicked our butts earlier this year,” he said. “It helped having seen them before. I didn’t want [my team] to be scared because they shut us down last time.”
With the final looming, Chavez hasn’t decided who will start on the mound on Saturday. But, as he deliberates who will get the nod, he knows that there’s something behind his team’s run to the finals.
“Not sure if there is a secret to winning,” Chavez said, “but having fun playing great baseball is a good way to start.”