Inland Empire and OC: Laguna Beach 5, Indio 2

LAGUNA BEACH — Geographically speaking, Indio and Laguna Beach couldn't be more different.

But the high school baseball teams from the respective cities displayed a remarkably similar brand of high-level competition Tuesday, going head to head in a Southern Section Division 4 first-round game at Laguna Beach High.

In the end, the Breakers delivered more timely hits and escaped with a 5-2 victory, their first home playoff win in the 73-year history of the program.

“We want to keep fighting,” said Laguna Beach catcher Erik Peruzzi, whose two-run double in the third gave his team the lead for good. “We want to get to the final round.”

After enduring a 125-mile bus ride from deep in the low desert to the sunny shores of Laguna Beach, the Rajahs scored first on a run-scoring double by Jose Lopez in the second inning.

Laguna Beach right-hander Chris Paul, who has signed with UC Santa Barbara, then settled in and prevented Indio from mounting another rally until the seventh.

The Breakers (22-6) gave Paul all the run support he'd need in the the third.

Larry Stewart reached on an error to lead off the inning and Jake Herbert followed with a bunt single. Keaton Jones then tied the score with a double to right-center field. Two outs later, Peruzzi doubled off the screen in left center, driving in Herbert and Jones for a 3-1 lead.

“We needed to get those,” Peruzzi said. “I was behind in the count so I was just getting ready to swing at anything close.”

The Breakers tacked on two more runs in the fifth. Jones led off with a walk and went to third on a hit-and-run single by Austin Paxson. Paul followed with a sacrifice fly to left field and freshman third baseman Steven Harrison came up with another big two-out hit, a double off the fence in center to give Laguna Beach a 5-1 lead.

That score held up heading into the top of the seventh. Lopez led off with a walk and Joseph Rivas reached on a throwing error by second baseman Robbie McInerny.

Things just got stranger from there.

Ricky Lopez singled over the third-base bag and Jose Lopez ran into his third-base coach while trying to score from second. He fell to the ground but got up just in time to beat the throw to the plate.

Laguna Beach coach Jeff Sears argued the third-base coach had helped Lopez get to his feet but to no avail.

“I’ve never seen a runner run into a coach and then the coach get to help him back up,” Sears said.

Jones then relieved Paul and induced Kristian Figueroa to hit the first pitch to Harrison at third. He threw to second to force Ricky Lopez and the Breakers were awarded a second out on the play when a base umpire ruled Rivas had interfered with Harrison by sticking out his arm as he ran from second to third.

Cody Barnhoorn then grounded to second to end the game.

“These guys prepare,” Sears said. “We’ll go right back in the weight room tomorrow. We’re not going to change anything because it’s CIF. It’s a game to us, it’s an opportunity for our guys to have success.”