North Hollywood triumphs in extra innings 3-1 against Banning to capture CIF D1 Baseball Championship


A year ago, the North Hollywood Huskies watched in disbelief, as the Kennedy Cougars celebrated a 9-8 walk-off victory at their expense in the Second Round of the 2023 CIF D1 Playoffs. Returning eight players from last season, the Huskies struggled out of the gate with an 0-4 start to the season in the same fashion as their playoff defeat.

“This year’s been tough,” said North Hollywood Head Coach Eder Tapia. “We lost our first game of the year and then three games in a row, we got walked off. The spirits were down.” Prevailing through the adversity, the eighth-seeded Huskies won 9 of their last 12 games and carried their momentum into Dodger Stadium for Saturday’s CIF L.A. City Section Division I Finals against the Banning Pilots. North Hollywood showed their tenacity at the plate in a tight pitching battle, pulling ahead in extra innings to capture the school’s third baseball city championship.

North Hollywood junior Maxwell Koster took the mound for the Huskies against Banning senior Jason Torres in the pitching matchup. Torres displayed early signs of nervousness in the top of the first inning when he hit the first batter of the game with a pitch. After surrendering the first hit of the game to Huskies junior second baseman Nick Park, he settled in to earn his first strikeout of the afternoon while North Hollywood failed to convert with runners in scoring position. Koster calmly pitched a scoreless first inning with the assistance of Huskies catcher Robert Han-Dressor, throwing out Banning lead-off hitter Pedro Ibanez-Eddy at second base following a walk.

An error from Banning once again put the Huskies in scoring position at second base with one out to go, but Flores retired Han-Dressor in the top of the second inning. Both pitchers continued to stay hot with consecutive shutout innings without a hit. Koster’s no-hitter bid finally came to a close when freshman shortstop Isaac Martinez singled for the Pilots’ first hit of the outing. Down to their last out in the third inning, the Pilots put a second runner on first with a walk on the subsequent at-bat but were left stranded after a fly out from Koster.

The game remained scoreless through four innings before an eventful top of the fifth inning shifted the tide of the contest towards North Hollywood. Senior third baseman Donelly Dubon advanced to first base after being hit by a pit from Flores. He later successfully stole base on an attempted throw out, while Huskies left fielder Richard Ruvalcaba advanced to first on a failed bunt attempt. Han-Dressor followed up with a pop-up bunt attempt which was caught out by Flores, who proceeded to throw Dubon out at second for a double play. Unfazed by earlier missed opportunities, North Hollywood finally took a breath of fresh air when lead-off hitter Diego Velazquez doubled to put the Huskies ahead 1-0.

The Pilots responded in the bottom of the fifth inning with a single from senior Phillip Melgoza. Banning Head Coach substituted him for junior Adrian Guzman as a pinch runner, and Guzman took full advantage of his speed. He advanced to third base after attempting to steal second and a failed throw out by Han-Dressor. Koster walked the next batter leading to a sacrifice squeeze bunt from Banning senior first baseman Chris Martinez to tie the game 1-1 with two runners on base.

A wild pitch from Koster advanced Pilots junior Angelo Duarte to third base with an opportunity to take the lead with two outs remaining. He sprinted towards home plate to score after a fly out from Isaac Martinez while forgetting to tag up and touch third base, leading to the Huskies tagging him out, escaping the inning with a 1-1 tie. The call made by the empire heightened the intensity of the crowd and Banning Head Coach Tom Louviere, as he vehemently argued against the call with the umpires.

Coach Louviere decided to make a pitching change in the top of the sixth inning, taking senior Robert Guerrero from left field to the mound. After allowing a triple from Park, he rebounded with his first strikeout of the day. Huskies junior Enoch Yi made just enough contact on a bunt attempt to force Guerrero to throw Park out at home plate on a fielder’s choice. However, the Huskies couldn’t seize the lead after he stole second base, as Guerrero added his second strikeout of the inning to keep the game at a stalemate.

The Pilots had an opportunity of their own to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Banning senior second baseman Jacob Castaneda was hit by a pitch. Down to their last out, he used aggressive base running to steal second base before a wild pitch brought him to third. Koster followed up the mishap with a walk, leading to a mound visit from Tapia in an effort to settle him down. With the pressure mounting, he maintained confidence in his starting pitcher and his Huskies team was rewarded with a fly out to end the inning.

As the crowd at Dodger Stadium anxiously anticipated the seventh inning, neither team relinquished ground as both pitchers added a strikeout in an inning where they each retired all three batters. The CIF Division I Championship would need extra innings to be decided, as both teams regrouped before the eighth inning.

Anticipating the moment, North Hollywood started the top of the eighth inning with a spark from their lead-off hitter Velazquez before he advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt. This time around, Park refused to let another scoring opportunity slip away from his team by adding his third triple of the outing to put the Huskies ahead 2-1. Coach Tapia praised Park’s ability to hit all sides of the field outside of his comfort zone on Saturday. “Nicky’s always had an approach to where he hits up the middle.”, he added, “Today he was able to use both sides of the diamond.”

Energized by the cheers of the North Hollywood crowd, senior right fielder Cristian Calderon tossed his bat in excitement after bringing home Park with a single of his own to give North Hollywood a 3-1 advantage. Guerrero limited the damage to two runs to close the inning, as Tapia turned to Calderon to secure the final three outs. He secured a fly out before an error from Park at second base put Ibanez-Eddy on first base.

Calderon maintained his poise as he drew his second fly out of the inning before Ibanez-Eddy stole second base to give the Pilots one final scoring opportunity. On the brink of a city championship, he struck out the final batter as his Huskies teammate ran onto the field in excitement to celebrate on the field at Chavez-Ravine. Tapia and his players hoisted the prized championship trophy to the crowd and received with their championship medals in the postgame ceremony. North Hollywood wins their first L.A. city baseball championship since they brought home a Division II Title in 2012. 

*All photos courtesy of VST intern Benjamin Becher

I'm interested
I disagree with this
This is unverified