La Costa Canyon edged by Santa Margarita in Division 1 regional final

Santa Margarita baseball players celebrate their 3-2 win
Santa Margarita baseball players celebrate their 3-2 win over La Costa Canyon in the Southern California Regional Division I championship game on Saturday.
(Nick Koza / For the Los Angeles Times)

The Mavericks had plenty of scoring opportunities but couldn’t get the big hit in 3-2 loss to Santa Margarita


Santa Margarita High’s playoff run through the San Diego Section ended with a Southern California Division I baseball championship Saturday afternoon before an overflow crowd at Santa Margarita’s field.

The No. 1-seeded Eagles edged Carlsbad on a walk-off hit in the quarterfinals, got one hit — a two-run homer — and beat Rancho Bernardo in the semifinals, and got great infield play Saturday in edging No. 2-seeded La Costa Canyon 3-2.

“Last year we started 12-8, went on a run and haven’t stopped,” said LCC coach Justin Machado of his Mavericks who are back-to-back San Diego Section Open Division champions.

“This year we had a target on our backs, but this group showed up every day, worked their tails off.

“And what did we do? Won the Open Division of the Lions Tournament, won our league (which includes Carlsbad and Rancho Bernardo), won our section’s Open Division title, and lost by a run in the SoCal to a really good team.”

Santa Margarita (29-7), champion of the uber-competitive Trinity League, scored first when Luke Lavin’s single drove in Blake Wilson, who singled and went to second on a balk.

Kalen Applefield got LCC (26-7) even with a long home run to right in the fourth.

But Santa Margarita scored two in the bottom of the inning when Lavin and Drew Rutter singled, Tyler Ankrum was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Bryce Humphrey singled in two.

LCC was held to three hits by five Santa Margarita pitchers as Eagles coach Chris Malec played the left-right pitching matchup game in the late innings.

The Mavericks left the bases loaded in the second inning on a walk and a pair of hit batsmen.

Applefield started the inning by flying out to the fence in right.

In the fourth, LCC again left the bases loaded with second baseman Wilson making a great play to get a force at the plate on Matt Pueschel’s roller.

The Mavericks pushed across a run in the fifth on Hayden Kline’s RBI double and had the bases loaded with one out.

But third baseman Luke Johnson made a nice play on Brady Petit’s bid for a hit. And Wilson came up big, making another outstanding play on Jacob Paul’s hot shot.

The Mavericks left nine runners on base — six in scoring position.

“We put our best foot forward against a great team,” Applefield said. “It was super frustrating in that we couldn’t get that big hit when we needed it.

“And that second baseman (Wilson) was impressive.”

Wilson also started a double play in the sixth, and nailed LCC leadoff hitter James Theodore by an eyelash to end the inning.

The Mavericks got a man aboard with one out in the seventh, but Applefield flied deep to right with the game ending on a pop to short.

“We just didn’t capitalize on our opportunities,” said LCC senior leader Gabe Camacho, Saturday’s starting pitcher. “We just didn’t put the ball in play when we had to, and that includes me.

“But we have a lot to be proud of. We represented San Diego well.

“We won the Lions Tournament, our league, and our section title.

“I wish it hadn’t ended this way. LCC has been my home for four years, and I loved it.”

La Costa Canyon has won 20 or more games in 13 of the last 14 seasons, not including the COVID-19 year of 2020.

The Mavericks have a 72.3 winning percentage over that time.

“We had a lot of chances, but just couldn’t get that clutch hit, a sacrifice fly,” Machado said. “But that’s baseball.

“We ran into a great team and a second baseman that was amazing.

“Gabe Camacho has been the leader of this team and will go down as one of the greatest Mavericks. He led us today, we just fell a run short.”