LA VERNE -- The pitcher with the funky delivery picked the right time to snap out of his funk.
Mission Viejo right-hander Anthony Shew had been knocked around in recent weeks, failing to fool opponents with his uncommon throwing motion. The senior seemed to recapture his deceptiveness in a complete-game effort Tuesday afternoon, leading the Diablos to a 9-1 victory over Damien in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 2 baseball playoffs.
Defending section champion Mission Viejo advanced to the quarterfinals, where it will meet second-seeded Pacifica of Garden Grove on Friday.
Shew had been tagged for 35 hits over his last four starts but gave up just five -- all singles -- on Tuesday. The lone run Damien mustered came in the first inning. Shew struck out six and closed the door by retiring the last seven batters in order.
"It's great to see him bounce back," said senior first baseman Mitch Holland, whose three-run double in the fourth broke the game open. "He's one of my best friends and I know how hard it is on him when he doesn't pitch well."
Holland continued his torrid hitting. He had a pair of three-run home runs in a first-round win last week and, on Tuesday, extended his hot streak.
"He's a big, strong kid. He's been a three-year varsity player and a team leader," Mission Viejo head coach Chris Ashbach said. "He's the nicest kid in the world, so I couldn't be happier to see this happening for him right now."
Holland's bases-clearing rocket to dead center field knocked out Damien starting pitcher Grant Hockin, a highly regarded sophomore who has already verbally committed to play at UCLA. Hockin had beaten Mission Viejo, 3-0, in a tournament game at Chino last month.
"I've been hot lately and looking for the fastball early," Holland said. "He left the ball out over the plate after working me in and out really hard. I hit it hard and luckily it dropped."
Sea View League champion Mission Viejo (19-12) dealt with a bit of controversy last week after beating Chaminade 8-2 in the first round. Chaminade filed a protest after its loss based on what coaches perceived as batting practice by the Diablos before the game -- according to section rules, teams are not allowed to take pregame batting practice -- but it was denied.
"Because we won last year we have a target on our backs," Holland said. "We have to take that into every game. Last year was so much fun. We want to do it again for our seniors."
Damien (15-11-1), which earned an at-large berth as the fourth-place team from the Sierra League, ousted La Mirada and Redlands East Valley last week, both on the road. The Spartans looked like a team primed for a magical run through the postseason but their bats were silenced, and head coach Al Leyva's group was bounced from the playoffs by the Diablos for the second consecutive year.
"It was the exact same pitching matchup as last [month]," Ashbach said. "That was a great game and I thought we would see the same early on in this one. I didn't think we learned much, we just knew [Hockin] was good. These are high school kids. Hockin has a good fastball, good slider, so good luck. But he got behind in a few counts and that allowed us to be more aggressive at the plate."