MENIFEE – The Murrieta Mesa Rams baseball team continued their preseason winning ways against the Heritage Patriots in the semifinal game of the I.E. Classic Tournament Tuesday, Feb. 25. The visiting Rams ran off with the lead in extra innings, claiming a 3-2 victory over Heritage when all was said and done. The game was tied at 2 runs apiece with Murrieta Mesa batting in the top of the eighth. That’s when an error scored one run for the Rams, putting them in the lead with a half inning to go.
The pitching was strong on both sides as pitchers for the Rams struck out eight, while Heritage pitchers sat down two. Murrieta Mesa (6-0) got things started in the first inning when catcher Makana Olaso grounded out but scored a run. The game was a 1-run showdown as junior two-way starter, Jhayden Raineri, showcased his stamina on the bump by keeping the Heritage hitters off balanced into the sixth inning. Heritage (2-4) tied things up that same inning when Gabe Kristall singled on a misread fly ball to right field, scoring one run.
Junior reliever and designated hitter in the game, Caden Byers, was credited with the victory for the Rams, allowing two hits and zero runs over two and a third innings, striking out two and walking zero. Paul Pardo took the loss for Heritage Patriots. He allowed one hit and one run over two innings, striking out two and walking zero.
Raineri started on the bump for Murrieta Mesa. He lasted five and two-thirds innings, allowing five hits and two runs while striking out six. Oscar Ortiz started the game for Heritage, allowing five hits and two runs over four innings. Murrieta Mesa collected six hits in the game. Carter Garate and Olaso gathered two hits each to lead the Rams. Kenny Teter went 2-for-4 at the plate to lead the Heritage Patriots in hits.
The Championship game of the I.E. Classic will take place between both the undefeated Murrieta Mesa Rams and the undefeated Paloma Valley Wildcats (4-0), for the second straight year. Paloma Valley, who won 6-2 in last year’s championship game, defeated Tahquitz 9-0 to get to this year’s final match-up. The championship game of the 2020 I.E. Classic will take place under the lights Friday, Feb. 28, at Elsinore High School. Game time is set for 6 p.m.
League play started for many of the basketball teams in southwest Riverside County on Tuesday night and play continues throughout the week.
On Tuesday night, Murrieta Mesa went on the road to defeat cross-town rival Vista Murrieta 72-65.
MURRIETA >> It sounds almost counterintuitive, especially for a sport that demands mental strength and the simultaneous ability to remember what you need to do and forget what you just did. But Angela Heo’s golf game took a great leap forward this season when she remembered to do one thing.
Forget about her score.
“My coach and my parents told me how I can get better mentally – don’t think about my score,” she said. “Go in and focus on one shot. Don’t think about my score and think about the shot in front of you.
“I had a bad season from the beginning of the year through summer and I thought I should stop thinking about my score. I tried that during the school season and I did really well.”
Indeed she did. The Murrieta Mesa sophomore overcame a rough spring with a dynamic fall season that brought her the Southwestern League title and her second consecutive Press-Enterprise Girls Golfer of the Year award.
She put together a season that would please any player.
There was the Southwestern League title she won by conquering the demons that haunted her the previous year, when she dunked her approach shot into the pond fronting the 14th green at Menifee Lakes. This time, she parked a 7-iron to 12 feet and sank a tricky eagle putt, a four-shot swing that propelled her past Temecula Valley’s Jordan Parr.
“She absolutely remembered that from last year,” Murrieta Mesa first-year head coach Ryan Ridley said. “I heard from others and other coaches what happened and heard her talking about it. She remembered and I think that was pretty significant in her abilities this year.
“That was pretty awesome to watch and it shows her maturity and her presence on the golf course. It’s recognizable. She’s very mature and composed for her age.”
From there, Heo used that maturity and composure, along with a deceptively long-for-her-size driver, to tie for 13th place at the CIF Regionals at Western Hills Country Club and to tie for fourth place at the CIF-SCGA Finals at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena.
That culminated in her tie for 13th place on a difficult Poppy Hills course in Pebble Beach at the CIF State tournament. Her 75 on a blustery day on the historic course showed Heo’s mental resilience; she said her swing rhythm was never there that day and she couldn’t find it.
Heo racked up five consecutive top-eight finishes in the competitive Southern California PGA Junior Tour this fall. Included in that was a win at Soule Park and a third in the Tom Pernice Jr. Invitational at Bear Creek.
“She’s a student of the game and she has the competitive drive that allows her to perform at her best most of the time,” Ridley said. “It was very rare throughout the whole season that she was not 2- or 3-under in our matches. “I know she demands a lot of herself. Every conversation you have with her, it’s like ‘Hey coach, I could have played better and I should have played better.’ Yet, she has the top score in every round.
“Her dedication is what makes her special.”
MacKenzie Carpenter, Great Oak, Jr.
Angela Heo, Murrieta Mesa, So.
Karen Kim, Roosevelt, Sr.
Sharon Kim. Roosevelt, Jr.
Jordyn Parr, Temecula Valley, Sr.
Carlotta Rusticelli, Murrieta Mesa, Jr.
Venecia Zaia, Vista Murrieta, Sr.
Mia Golovich, Murrieta Mesa, So.
Jennifer Gousikul, King, Fr.
Kaila Higgins, Great Oak, Sr.
Bella Ly, Roosevelt, Fr.
Katelyn Parr, Temecula Valley, Fr.
Chandler Sjoerdsma, King, Sr.
Kate Watanasiripong, Great Oak, So.
In what was a stunning finish, Murrieta Mesa’s Angela Heo, who only lost by two strokes last year, pulled off a one-stroke victory this year over the field at the recent Southwestern League girls golf finals. Heo, who shot a 141 over her two days at the Menifee Lakes Country Club, was ousted by Venecia Zaia (a UNC-Asheville recruit) of Vista Murrieta in 2018, but this year held off a gritty run by not Zaia (3rd place; 144), but also by Jordyn Parr (a San Jose State commit), who finished with a 142.
Going into the finals it was the Great Oak and Temecula Valley teams that shared the conference title, based on their 9-1 dual-meet records. Chaparral High School was the host for the league finals where the individual competition featured 11 of the top 12 golfers from last year’s SWL Finals.
The top eight girls’ golfers will move on to CIF and have to play off for the final All-League spot and the CIF alternate (a seldom-used designation, but one that was an unintended benefit from the 9th patch playoff). That spot went to Ashlyn Calabrase, who earned that distinction with a birdie on the first playoff hole (No. 17 on Palms Course).
“It was an exceptional year of girls golf in the Southwestern League, said Rob Hernandez, Chaparral Head Girls Golf Coach. “A year ago, a score of 100 or better made it to Day 2 of League Finals; this year it was an 87. Five of the six schools have met CIF team qualifying criteria and we are submitting at-large requests for Murrieta Mesa and Murrieta Valley to join Great Oak, Temecula Valley and Vista Murrieta in team CIF.”
The top eight Southwestern League girls’ golfers qualified for the CIF Individual Southern Regionals and also garnished first team All-League status, as did three others. The top 11 through 18 girls on the list garnished second team All-League status.
MENIFEE >> Prior to Thursday, Angela Heo had less-than-stellar memories from the Palms Course’s 14th hole at Menifee Lakes Country Club.
Now, she has a moment to remember.
The Murrieta Mesa sophomore eagled the par-5, 439-yard hole, enabling her to overtake first-round leader Jordyn Parr of Temecula Valley and go on to win the individual title in Thursday’s Southwestern League Finals on a dry, warm and windy afternoon.
Heo, the Inland area’s only state-tournament qualifier from a year ago, won by a stroke, shooting 2-under-par 70 on Thursday after 71 in Wednesday’s preliminary. Her two-day total of 141 was one better than Parr, who shot 76 after taking a five-stroke lead Wednesday after opening with a 6-under 66.
“This was special, especially for me, because I’ve never played two days under par,” Heo said, “and I did that today.”
With Santa Ana winds and temperatures reaching into the 90s, Thursday at Menifee Lakes was a far different play than Wednesday. But Parr, a fourth-year senior, held her lead until the pivotal 14th.
A year ago in this tournament on this same course, Heo said she went into the water in front of the green at No. 14 and took a triple bogey. On Thursday, she drove to the middle of the fairway and hit a 7-iron to 12 feet before sinking the eagle putt while Parr, leading by one stroke at the time, made par, giving Heo the lead.
She extended the advantage on No. 16 with another fantastic approach — this time with a 54-degree wedge — before sinking a birdie putt while Parr bogeyed.
Heo wound up needing every shot. Parr birdied No. 18 while Heo went above the left-side bunker and couldn’t slow the downhill chip enough on her up-and-down attempt. Still, Heo made bogey to complete a back-nine 33 and earn a one-shot victory.
“Today, I was just like, ‘Keep doing your best and think about your own play,’” said Heo, 10th at last year’s state tournament.
Parr made it close for her fourth top-three finish in four tries at the Southwestern League Finals, including two years ago, when she prevailed by a single stroke over Vista Murrieta’s Aly Bean. Having a front-row seat to watch Heo was tough, knowing this was a last chance in league for the San Jose State-commit.
“Well, I did it yesterday,” Parr said, when asked about watching a competitor on a roll. “I think it’s just harder because it’s my senior year, and I obviously played well yesterday, and to not play well today kind of (stinks).”
Last year’s league champion, senior Venecia Zaia of Vista Murrieta, closed Thursday with a 71 and a two-day, third-place total of 144.
The top eight advanced to next week’s CIF Southern Section Individual Regional. That included a pair of juniors — Murrieta Mesa’s Carlotta Rusticelli (75-78-153) and Great Oak’s MacKenzie Carpenter (75-78-153) — as well as Parr’s sister, freshman Katelyn Parr, who shot 81 after opening Wednesday with a 74.
Sophomores Kate Watanasiripong (79-80-159), from Great Oak, and Mia Golovich (78-82-160), from Murrieta Mesa, claimed the last two qualifying spots.
@LandonNegri on Twitter
Another season, another Mesa All American! Congrats to Freshman (Yes I said Freshman) Justin Schneider who was the only swimmer in the country in his class chosen as an All American. 500 Free! He’s just getting started!! We are so proud Justin.
Baylor Bear Insider
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Following a blueprint similar to the one that led to a Big 12 Championship title a year ago, the 18th-ranked Baylor baseball team (34-15) used some early offense and dominant pitching to carry the Bears through the opening day of the tournament.
Bouncing back from a rough outing just six days earlier, Paul Dickens (5-2) threw six shutout innings before giving up a solo homer in the seventh as second-seeded Baylor defeated the seventh-seeded Oklahoma Sooners, 8-2, Wednesday night at Bricktown Ballpark.
"I thought he did amazing today," said catcher Shea Langeliers, who provided the early offense with a two-run blast in the first inning that just cleared the 400-foot marker in dead center field and landed on the berm. "(Dickens) did exactly what we needed to start this tournament. The first day, you need your starter to go deep in the game to save the bullpen and dominate, and that's what we got from him."
Oklahoma (33-22) got one of the "best outings" of the year from hard-throwing right-hander Cade Cavalli (5-3), whose fastball was consistently clocked at 95, 96 mph. But, the Bears made him pay for two of his only mistakes of the night with Langeliers' two-run homer in the fourth and a two-run shot by Andy Thomas in the fourth for the 4-0 lead.
"I thought Cade was really good, probably one of his best outings," OU coach Skip Johnson said. "You've got to tip your hat to Baylor. They came out and swung the bats really well. We haven't played from behind very well all year. When we had a chance to take the moment, (with runners on 2ndand 3rdin the fourth inning), we had a strikeout."
Actually, Dickens struck out two with the tying runs in scoring position in that pivotal fourth inning.
Brady Lindsly, who had three of OU's nine hits, had a one-out bloop single to left, and then Tyler Hardman ripped a double off the wall in left-center field to put runners on second and third. No problem, Dickens got out of the jam by striking out Justin Mitchell and Brandon Zaragosa to keep OU off the board.
"Nothing changes," Dickens said, when runners are on base. "Just because they have a runner on third base with less than two outs doesn't mean that runner has to score. That's kind of the mindset I want to have out there. With a great defense like we have out on the field, it gives me confidence to throw strikes, to fill up the zone and know that our guys can make plays out there."
Baylor coach Steve Rodriguez said that's one of the things that makes Dickens such an effective pitcher is "the heartbeat is going to stay the same," no matter how dicey the situation may appear to be.
"The big thing is he was able to settle down," Rodriguez said. "You see his mentality. There's not a whole lot of change. . . . He's like, 'OK, they got a double, so what? Let me get back to work.' He missed a spot, but he was able to execute after that. He has complete trust in (pitching coach Jon Strauss). And he knows when he doesn't execute a pitch. It's not like you have to tell him about it. He's well aware of it."
What compounded it for the Sooners is when Baylor turned right around and put another two runs on the board in the bottom half of the fourth.
Cavalli walked Langeliers to lead off the inning, and then Thomas deposited a first-pitch sinker well over the right-field wall for his third home run of the year and fifth of his career.
"It felt good," Thomas said. "I came in after my first at-bat and talked to Coach Rod about my timing. Something felt a little off. I asked, 'Am I drifting? Is my foot not down?' He basically just told me I was late. So, I went up there my second at-bat and thought to myself, 'Just get your foot down and let everything take care of itself.' And, it did."
Asked if his home run went farther than Langeliers' blast, Thomas first said, "Of course." But then quickly corrected himself and said, "Probably about the same distance."
"That's such a cheesy response," Rodriguez said.
Baylor scored three runs off a trio of relievers in the sixth in a fairly unconventional way. Cole Haring started it when he reached base on a wild pitch on a swinging third strike, then came all the around to score from second on a high-hop grounder to third by Chase Wehsener.
Baylor Bear Insider
Full disclosure, Andy Thomas didn't have a chance. This was like a high school wrestler getting tag-teamed by Daniel Bryan and Rowan.
By the end of a 20-minute shared interview with All-American catcher Shea Langeliers, where Baylor's junior first baseman/DH/catcher was constantly needled about his lack of home run power, Thomas walked out of my office feeling like he had been punched a few too many times.
"You know, I have DOUBLED my home run production this year. DOUBLED!" said Thomas, who has hit two homers this season and four for his career.
Langeliers quickly interjected, "He had to get dumbed-up by the catcher for him to hit his second home run of the year," a no-doubt, two-run shot in the first inning of an 11-6 win over Kansas State on May 4.
"That's true, I got knocked pretty good. Woke me up," Andy said.
And so it went, back and forth, Thomas taking gentle jabs from both his road roomie and an old, know-it-all sportswriter.
Shea, who batted behind Thomas earlier in the season when they were hitting in the 4 and 5 holes, said that he was "almost at the point mentally that when Andy's at the plate, in my mind, it's guaranteed on base."
Because, obviously, he wouldn't be rounding the bases for a home run, right? Another gentle jab.
"Man, you're stuck on that home run thing. You are terrible," Andy fires back.
The thing that becomes so evident, though, is how much these two guys pull for each other. Whether it's in the field, at the plate or just in life, they're cheering for each other to succeed.
"Obviously, we both came in as catchers, we pushed each other to be better," said Langeliers, who's hitting .311 with six home runs and 28 RBI going into Wednesday's 4 p.m. game between the 18th-ranked Bears (33-15) and seventh-seeded Oklahoma (33-21) at the Big 12 Championship in Oklahoma City.
"But, being around Andy for three years, has advanced my knowledge of baseball. He's one of the smartest guys I've ever met when it comes to baseball, just thinking about the game, different situations, anticipating what's going to happen, how the other teams play. More than anything, I think he's made me grow as a baseball player."
As smart a player as he is, one thing Thomas had to accept right from the start is that Langeliers is the better catcher.
"It was hard at first," said Thomas, an honorable mention All-American and Gold Glove-winning catcher at Murrieta (Calif.) Mesa High School, "because you're like, 'Dang, the guy's better than me.' But, then you go, 'All right, I've got to find my way into the lineup, somehow. I've just got to hit my way into a spot.' And that's what happened last year and this year."
Until a wrist injury early in his freshman season, Thomas was in position to maybe platoon with Langeliers behind the plate. Instead, he got just 20 at-bats that year and hit .450 with four of his nine hits going for extra bases.
"It's one of those moments in your life where you can either build from it or sink with it," Thomas said. "I built from it."
Producing in pinch-hit and just limited opportunities "says a lot about his character and what he's like on and off the field," Langeliers said of Thomas.
That same year, Langeliers "took the league by storm," Thomas said, earning Freshman All-America and first-team All-Big 12 honors. Taking over full-time catching duties, he hit .313 with 10 homers and 38 RBI.
Murrieta Mesa defeated Vista Murrieta in the opening round of the Inland Empire Championships. The Rams won convincingly, jumping out to a half time score of 11-1 and costed to a final score victory of 17-1. This was the first playoff game in both school’s history.
Murrieta Mesa scored early with their first goal. Vista Murrieta bounced back quickly to tie the game 1-1. The Ram defense toughened and that would be the last goal for the Broncos.
Sarah Watts and Carcie Chappell led the Rams offense Friday night. The seniors both score three goals for Murrieta Mesa.
Lexie Hamilton was named player of the game. The freshmen played low defense and used her speed when possessing the ball. Hamilton carried the ball 100 yards and scored two times. There were 11 different Rams scored last night.
A senior in Murrieta Mesa high school has been ranked as the Number 3 young boxer in the United States by usaboxing.org, a sanctioning body for amateur boxing. Rauli Lizarraga has astonished his coaches and peers to excel at this demanding sport.
Lizarraga boxes in the 178 pound weight division. He has won the Southern Cal State Championship, Police Athletic League Tournament and Blue and Gold title. Most recently he won gold at the Elite Qualifiers in Reno Nevada.
The senior from Mesa began boxing as an outlet from gangs and crime in Northern California. He moved to Murrieta and started boxing and training at the Temecula Boxing Training Academy. With his success, Lizarraga has set his sights on conquering the Number 1 spot in USA boxing. His goal is to represent the United States in 2020 Olympics in Japan.